As the 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers assembled together at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex for their second day of training camp on Friday, we were also given the typical media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. Thefore, it’s time to look at the 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, although there were not any players mentioned in the opening statement.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are only returning one of their starting offensive linemen from the 2020 season in Chuks Okorafor. Coach Tomlin was asked about Okorafor being limited in practice and if there was any injury of significance.
“No injuries to speak of, Some guys we’re just exercising some precaution. He’s one of them. But nothing of any significance that would dictate any significant time missed.”
In just the second practice of training camp, Ben Roethlisberger reportedly did not do much during team activities. Coach Tomlin was asked about holding Roethlisberger out of practice at this point in training camp.
“Just want to see more of the other guys. Some of these guys we know a lot about, and some of those guys that we know a lot about might not play in the Hall of Fame Game. And so we got to get to know some others. We got to prepare some others. Just the nature of how this preseason is constructed now with today’s guidelines. We don’t have a lot of time before we’ll be in the stadium. And so those that we are preparing to play in Canton, we want to see more of than maybe some of those that we don’t intend to.”
One player who will be watched intensely by many Steelers fans throughout the preseason is former first-round draft pick quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he has seen out of Haskins in the limited time they’ve practiced.
“Small sample size. He’s one of the guys that gets additional reps when you dial Ben (Roethlisberger) back. And so today was the first day that we dialed him back. So he got more exposure. We’ll take a look at the tape and he’ll learn from it and continue to move forward. But I like his approach to business. It has been really positive”
Arthur Maulet & Antoine Brooks Jr.
One of the biggest position battles Steelers fans will be watching during the preseason is that of nickel cornerback. Coach Tomlin was asked about the rotation of players they are looking at the position and he specifically mentioned Arthur Maulet and Antoine Brooks Jr.
“I think right now, we’re working Art (Maulet) and and Brooks there, but they’ll be times when you’ll see some other guys. Just right now we’ve been focused on those two.”
Coach Tomilin was later asked a specific question about Arthur Maulet and what he’s done to earn the first shot at the nickle cornerback position.
“He’s a proven NFL dude. He plays hard on teams. He showed an aptitude in terms of playing in the slot, the blitzing, the physicality. Even though we haven’t had an opportunity to do it in this setting, he’s not a rookie. So he’s got a reputation and resume and so we’re utilizing that to make some early decisions in terms of getting exposure to him.”
After only naming two players at the nickle cornerback position, Coach Tomlin was asked a follow up question about any other players who could fill in that role. The only other player Coach Tomlin mentioned by name was seventh-round draft pick Tre Norwood.
“We’ll determine it. Like right now we’re working Tre Norwood at safety. He could be a guy that could roll down and play in there some. He has in college. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now, we don’t want to give too many people too many things to focus on. We’re keeping them locked down and letting them work there for a couple of days. We’ll have a meeting of the minds and determine who’s going to move where for the next block of days.”
During the 2020 season, T.J. Watt was the youngest of the Steelers five captains. Coach Tomlin was asked about Watt’s voice both on the field and in the locker room.
“You guys know T.J. He doesn’t talk a lot. But his words carry weight because of what he’s willing and capable of doing.”
Coach Tomlin was asked a follow-up question about the possible leadership void on the Steelers with the loss of players such as Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and Vince Willaims and if T.J. Watt is a player to help fill that void.
“I think T.J. is going to be T.J. And we appreciate that. He’s not a vocal guy, that’s not his style. We’ve got plenty of leadership. We don’t have a void in that area, and obviously he’s one of them. He’s just not a ‘rah-rah’ type.”
Another position where the reps have been split up among the players has been at running back. Coach Tomlin was asked about the workload he was giving first-round draft pick Najee Harris and if they are intentionally not trying to give him too much in the early part of training camp.
“We’re not micromanaging it at this juncture. We’re rolling those guys through. Obviously he’s getting a lot of work and a lot of significant work in the first group because that’s where we took him.”
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.