As the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers assembled together at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for the first day of training camp on Thursday, we were also graced with a media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. For that reason, it is the glorious return of the “players mentioned” article after a nearly 5-week absence since minicamp in June. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period, although there were not any players mentioned in the opening statement. Coach Tomlin also answered question in regards to Vince Williams and David DeCastro.
One of the newer additions to the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers is former Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner. Coach Tomlin was asked what he saw from Turner his first day in black and gold.
“He’s got a good demeanor. He’s a quick study. He’s a professional, he’s been around. But much too early to tell, just a one-day sample.”
Coach Tomlin was later asked another question about if he had a prior relationship with Turner.
“Nothing more than a mutual respect and a nod. We had a preseason relationship with those guys annually when he was in Carolina. And so you get an opportunity to get to know the guys, and particularly the significant guys. There’s a guy that’s played a lot of ball. You guys know that perennially we’re at the LSU pro day and so we probably had some exposure to him from that standpoint too.”
Signing with the Steelers on Monday, Melvin Ingram has a lot to pick up with the Steelers in very little time. Coach Tomlin was asked what made them go get Ingram for the 2021 season.
“We’ve seen him a lot over the years. Respectful of his body of work. But not only that, we were familiar with him in the draft. He’s one of those guys that fit the profile. We studied him and got to know him through the draft process. And usually those are the guys that we end up doubling back to and having an interest in when they’re available in in free agency. So it makes the process and easy one. We also had the opportunity in ‘17 when we coached the Pro Bowl, we had him down in Orlando and really got to know him some in that setting as well. So we felt really comfortable that he’s going to be an easy fit as a man and as a player.”
Coach Tomlin was later asked another question about the number of reps and the rotation at outside linebacker he expects from Ingram.
“It’s really much too early. Right now we’re just teaching him and seeing how quickly he can learn and that’s probably going to dictate reps. What we don’t want to do is waste game reps on anyone. So his level of preparedness, his ability to execute detail, particularly the early stages of development, is going to determine how much he participates or when he participates”
One of the rookies who may be asked to step into the starting lineup very early in the 2021 season is third-round draft pick Kendrick Green. Coach Tomlin was asked about how Green looked in practice.
“Again, a one day sample. I mean, we can we can write a story if we want. But we thought it was important, those guys that we’re trying to get starts in the Hall of Fame Game to get as much work as we can. It’s no indication of where they are in terms of their career. You can label him a starter if you choose. He is. He’s a starter for the Hall of Fame Game, if that means anything.”
Coach Tomlin was later asked another question about Green being a rookie and making the calls on the offensive line.
“These guys come to work, particularly when they’ve been exposed to some of the things that he’s been exposed to. He’s played Big Ten football. He’s been in some circumstances. We’ll see what the process does to him. But not a bad issue or bad start from today’s perspective at all. This is our first day working in pads in a training camp-like setting, but we’ve been working extremely hard dating back to the spring since we acquired him. Classroom zooms and so forth. And so he just had an opportunity to show some of that today.”
There was only one player who reportedly did not practice at all on the first day of training camp as Kevin Dodson was held out of activities. Coach Tomlin was asked about Dotson’s situation and if there is a problem of significance.
“No, we were taking care of him. He got a day or two, he should be fine. I think he tweaked a little something. But it’s not anything of any concern whatsoever to be honest with you, from a big-picture standpoint.”
Devin Bush & Zach Banner
The Steelers have two players coming off of ACL surgery from the 2020 season in linebacker Devin Bush and tackle Zach Banner Coach Tomlin was asked about their progression through these injuries and if they will be ready for the 2021 season.
“Both guys have worked their tails off. It’s great to see them back out here and working. We’ll just continue to be thoughtful of the reps that we give them. Today was a big day for them to get back out and put jerseys on and be with your teammates. But we’ll be thoughtful about it through the journey and and have good days and continually to push them forward towards September 12th.”
Antoine Brooks Jr.
One of the few on-field reports from Thursday’s practice was an interception by Antoine Brooks while playing in the slot cornerback position. Coach Tomlin was asked if it was too much to read into Brooks being one of the candidates to fill the slot cornerback position.
“Exactly what you said. He’ll probably get the start in Canton. And you can write a story about that.”
Entering the season at the age of 39, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a new offensive coordinator to work with for 2021. Coach Tomlin was asked if Roethlisberger is picking up on the terminology and various things under the new system.
“It’s not all new verbiage, all new concepts. It’s not. It’s really not. Matt’s (Canada) done a really good job, a thoughtful job, of easing the transition. Sure there are some new things and sure there’s some new words, but it’s not a blank slate. Ben’s been on the job long enough where I don’t want to make that seem something significant when it’s an adjustment. But by the time we are able to play, I doubt it’s going to be anything of any significance.”
One issue still looming throughout Steelers training camp is if T.J. Watt will get a new contract prior to the 2021 season. Coach Tomlin was asked what it meant to still have Watt showing up and getting in the work even with the negotiating processes going on
“It doesn’t ell me anything that I didn’t already know about T.J. Watt. What can you say about him that hasn’t been said? I’m sure that process will run its course and we’ll have something to report.”
One player who missed mandatory minicamp was Stephon Tuitt as his family was dealing with the tragic loss of his brother. Coach Tomlin was asked if Tuitt was held out of some team activities on Thursday in order to ramp up his participation since he had missed time.
A portion of Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen below as well as a link to the full interview on the Steelers’ YouTube channel.