As the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers assembled together at Heinz Field again on Wednesday for, we were also graced with another media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. Since he was asked about a number of players following the team’s activities, another “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.
One of the more intriguing reports from Day 2 of minicamp at Heinz Field was James Pierre had two interceptions. Coach Tomlin was asked about Pierre’s development.
“He’s one of those second-year guys that we all have high expectations for. I think it’s reasonable when you’ve been around a guy that’s been in the program and understands what to expect, what’s needed of him physically, what’s needed of him mentally, and so forth. I think we’re looking for all of those second-year players who gained experience and that guy gained a lot of experience last year. He didn’t play a lot of defense, but he had a helmet on every week, he was preparing every week, he was a critical component of our special teams unit, and that usually is an indication of the guys ready to proceed and advance. I think it’s reasonable to expect him to do so.”
Antoine Brooks Jr
The only rookie drafted in 2020 who did not make the Steelers 53-man roster to begin the season, Antoine Brooks still received playing time in his first year in the NFL. Coach Tomlin was asked about what makes him believe that Brooks could play in the slot position.
“He played the slot for us some last year in regular season football games when Mike Hilton missed a block of time. One, specifically, here at home, he probably played 25-plus snaps or so of defense. His college resume indicates that he has capabilities in that area. We’ve worked him there in the past. He’s had some success. He’ll be given an opportunity to continue to grow and develop and display those skills, and we’ll determine, when we get close to the action, how we divide the labor and who does what. But he’s done a good job of that thus far.
Pittsburgh Steelers added another former first-round draft pick to their roster in 2021 when they signed Dwayne Haskins after he was released by the Washington Football Team. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he has learned about Haskins in his short time in Pittsburgh.
“Really, I’ve been more concerned about Dwayne the person, kind of getting to know him and getting an understanding of what he’s been through and how that’s shaped him, affected him positively and negatively, how it’s affected the growth and development of his game. I think, more than anything, Dwayne and I are just trying to get to know one another. I think it starts there, and then we can focus on some things relative to the game itself. I leave some of the minutia and some of the detail about his football development between him and Sully (Mike Sullivan) and (Matt) Canada. I just want to get to know the young man and help him grow in that way.”
When looking at the Steelers secondary, there is one player who stands out due to his extensive experience. Coach Tomlin was asked about Joe Haden’s veteran leadership and what the younger guys can learn from him.
“The PG County boys, it just uplifts their day when Joe’s here. Joe’s a leader of the secondary. He’s a leader of the guys from DC, but Joe is just a natural leader. He wears that in a very natural way, a very welcoming way. He calms the waters, if you will. He’s a guy that displays veteran presence and poise almost in all circumstances.”
David DeCastro & Zach Banner
After losing offensive captain Maurkice Pouncey to retirement following the 2020 season, the Steelers offensive line lost their long-time leader. Coach Tomlin was asked if the leadership on the offensive line would fall to David DeCastro because of his experience of to a big personality like Zach Banner
“I think that’s something that happens organically through the process. I think when guys like me try to create that, it’s not authentic. So there’ll be enough adversity and enough challenges and enough opportunities to let natural leadership ability show throughout this process. And that’s one of the interesting subplots that I’m interested in watching develop.”
One of the biggest problems with the Steelers young wide receivers last year came in the category of drops. Leading the way was 2019 third-round draft pick Diontae Johnson. Coach Tomlin was asked if he was on top of the the issue Johnson had last year with drops.
“I haven’t given a lot of thought about it. Last year is last year. Everyone starts anew as far as I’m concerned. It hadn’t been a real topic of discussion to be quite honest with you.”
Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here: