The 2021 NFL regular season is entering the final quarter and the Steelers start off with a few extra days rest after playing on Thursday in Week 14. Since it is back to a regular week of work, Mike Tomlin held his typical Tuesday press conference. With many players discussed, it’s time for another players mentioned by Coach Tomlin during his media time. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.
As the Steelers enter the final quarter of their season, keeping their veteran quarterback healthy for the final games is a priority. Coach Tomlin was asked if there was anything the Steelers could do differently to help minimize the hits Ben Roethlisberger is taking.
“We can stay on schedule better. I think that that’s a catalyst for it, and that’s always been a catalyst for us in terms of minimizing his exposure. When we’re doing a better job of staying on schedule, those hits are less. And we acknowledged last Thursday night is not what we’re looking for in that regard.”
Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, Pressley Harvin, & Pat Freiermuth
The lack of awareness and instead celebrating a first down by second-year wide receiver Chase Claypool has been a talking point since Thursday night’s game. Coach Tomlin was asked if he addressed this with Claypool and the rest of the team to keep it from happening going forward. In his lengthy response, coach Tomlin talked about growing as a player and mentioned several other players who are (or were) a work in progress including Diontae Johnson, Presley Harvin, and Pat Freiermuth.
“We don’t wait for stuff like that to happen to address it. That’s built in our two-minute teachings at team development, and obviously, he had a misstep in that area. He had missteps in other areas. He’s a young guy that’s growing and developing in a lot of ways. It can’t happen fast enough for him, and it can’t happen fast enough for us. We’re going to continue to push that growth and development as long as he’s a willing participant. He has been, and so we’re just gonna keep moving forward. That can be said about a lot of guys. These guys don’t come to you as finished products. That’s another component of coaching that I embrace, and we collectively embrace. It’s the reason why we make what we make and there are so many of us, because these guys are less than finished products in most instances when we get them. There’s a growth and development that has to take place. You guys are witnessing growth and development in Diontae Johnson, not only in quality of play and skills relative to his position, but in maturity. He’s a year older than Chase. That’s going on all around us. We’re seeing the pains of growth and development sometimes when young people have to participate. We see inconsistencies in Pressley Harvin’s performance. We’ve had less than ideal plays from Pat (Freiermuth). But we know that that we’re pouring into something in all of those guys. And although there’s some short-term negativity associated with the pain and discomfort that they go through in terms of growing and learning, and oftentimes it’s negative, we know the benefit, individually and collectively, of staying on task and them gaining that expertise and experience. And it’s reasonable to expect some of those hiccups to disappear, and some quicker than others.”
Following the loss to Minnesota, Coach Tomlin said there could be the potential for changes along the offensive line. Coach Tomlin was asked on Tuesday why Zach Banner hasn’t been used as an option since his return and if it was something physical with him or a coaching decision.
“At times, it’s been physical. He’s proven his health, and so, more than anything, it’s cohesion and opportunity. We’ve sustained a lot in the interior portions of our line, and less so at tackle. He’s a tackle and tackle only. I think we’ve been through maybe four or five left guards specifically. That’s not a position that he plays.”
Buddy Johnson & Robert Spillane
The Steelers had not used more than three inside linebackers in 2021 until Thursday night when both Marcus Allen and Buddy Johnson saw defensive snaps. Coach Tomlin was asked if Johnson getting his first snaps of his career was circumstantial because of a shortage of players or if he might be utilized more. In his response, Coach Tomlin recognized the health of Robert Spillane was another factor.
“You may see more of him. We just wanted to turn the stones over, as I mentioned, and that’s an example of it. He did some good things and some things that he could have done better. We’ll let participation in our work week be our guide, not only with him, but a lot of people. If Robert Spillane has proven his health, there may be less opportunities for him. I don’t want you to paint me into a corner from that perspective. I’m just open to the inclusion of people that you haven’t been seeing, particularly in recent weeks, in planning this week.”
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