As the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers assembled together at Heinz Field on Tuesday for the very first time, we were also graced with a media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. Since he was asked about a number of players following the team’s activities, a “players mentioned” article is able to make a brief appearance before the lull in football activities kicks in for several weeks. To qualify as one of the “players” I kept the names highlighted limited to members of the Steelers’ current roster. Remember these are players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.
Ben Roethlisberger & JuJu Smith-Schuster
Two players who were hindered slightly with minor ailments the first day of minicamp were quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Despite saying he would only talk about significant injures, Coach Tomlin was asked if he would walk through what happened with Roethlisberger’s potential injury.
Tomlin was also asked if we are safe assume the injury to JuJu Smith-Schuster is not significant.
“Yes, you are.”
Even after his previous responses, Coach Tomlin was asked if we should expect to see Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster at Day 2 of minicamp.
“You can expect whatever you wish. We’ll see what tomorrow holds.”
Getting into the category of “beating a dead horse” when it comes to injured players, Coach Tomlin was asked about David DeCastro being at minicamp but not participating.
“Again, if I thought injury circumstances or reasons why people were not participating were significant, I would share them with you, but I’m not going to address day to day like things in this environment. It’s not required.”
Steelers 2018 first-round draft pick Terrell Edmunds did not have his fifth-year option picked up last month. Coach Tomlin was asked if there was anything different dealing with the situation with Edmunds based on his contract or if it could be used as motivation.
“This is grown men business. This is football at its highest level. Tough decisions and tough conversations happen daily and it’s just part of the environment that we’re in. I think we all understand that and we all try to approach it in as professional and sensitive a manner as we can.”
Alex Highsmith & T.J. Watt
For the first time in his NFL career, T.J. Watt is going into the season with a different outside linebacker set to lineup opposite of him to start the 2021 season. Coach Tomlin was asked about Alex Highsmith and if he can develop the chemistry with Watt the Steelers have seen at the position the last four seasons.
“It starts first with two really good players. The best thing that Alex can do is continue to sharpen his skills and get better and grow and develop as a player. You know we’ve got great expectations for a second-year guy in terms of proceeding in his career and taking a step not only in understanding the preparedness, but production and consistency. He’s been a highly professional, mature young man, and so I think it’s reasonable to expect those things to happen. But make no mistake, before you start talking about dynamic duos and tandems and so forth, it requires two big-time, varsity players. And so he’s working to grow and improve his game.”
The Steelers have some vacated position for 2020 in the defensive secondary which will play out during the preseason. Coach Tomlin was asked about one specific cornerback, James Pierre, and both what he saw from him last season and what improvements he would like to see for 2021.
“I saw consistent varsity gunner play. Often times, when you have that level of consistency and performance in a special teams area, it’s often an indication of advancement or maturity and growth opportunity in the other phases as well. I think over the course of my time here, the young guys that are consistent and perform in that area usually ascend within the offensive or defensive unit and so it’s reasonable to expect him to do that. He got a lot of in-game experience last year, although it was in a special teams area. I think that field time and that game speed exposure will help in the growth and development. I think it is reasonable to expect him to utilize that experience as a catalyst for his growth on defense.”
Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here: