The Pittsburgh Steelers held practice at Heinz Field for 2021 Training Camp on Saturday as the concluding even to Steelers Fest. Since the Steelers were back on the field, we were also given the typical media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. Therefore, 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.
Pat Freiermuth & Alex Highsmith
Once again, a large focus was put on the “backs on backers” drill. Coach Tomlin was asked about the matchup between rookie Pat Freiermuth and Alex Highsmith.
“56 (Alex Highsmith) is a guy that has big-time urgency in his play; his motor runs hot. We’re just trying to develop that, and Pat… You partner those guys together to create that. That’s the iron-on-iron principle. There’s a rhyme and reason to a lot of the matchups and usually it’s about one man’s strength versus another element of the next man’s game that needs improvement. In the case of those two, we just like the finish of Alex, and so we’re going to pit Pat in those circumstances”
During Saturday’s practice, it was reported Ben Roethlisberger made quick work of the two-minute drill as the Steelers weren’t forced to go the entire length of the field. Coach Tomlin was asked if he will make it more difficult on Roethlisberger the next time.
“No, we work on the short field sometimes because usually that puts you in a position where you gotta choose from a large number of plays down in here in the high red. We wanted to definitively get in the high red zone and make some decisions, so from time to time, we’re gonna put them on the short field. But the time on the clock is corresponding. We shorten the field, we had them under a minute, they did their thing. When you hit a chunk that early in the game it’s gonna get your leg up. So that’s why it appeared that way.”
As the Steelers are going through training camp, it appears there have been highs and lows when it comes to the running game as they have broken off some nice runs while having several negative ones as well. Coach Tomlin was asked if he was upset about the negative plays or if he was more impressed with what Najee Harris did.
“I don’t know that I was upset at all to be honest with you. It’s just ebbs, and flow associated with play this time of year.”
One player reportedly having quite a nice training camp coming off of injury is third-year tight end Zach Gentry. Coach Tomlin was asked if Gentry has an appetite for one-on-one drills. In his response, Coach Tomlin brought up Pat Freiermuth once again.
“He did. But, boy, we’re gonna put him in more circumstances. The tight end position is a unique one because of the challenges that they face week in and week out in the NFL. Some weeks they’re blocking outside linebackers, some weeks they’re blocking big men four-three ends. And so that’s why some tight ends look like Pat (Freiermuth) and some tight ends look like Zach. Zach is a guy that has a skillset and a body to match up with four-three people, and so he better distinguish himself in those circumstances.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he was concerned with the number of drops in practice and he specifically used one play by Gentry to comment on.
“Yeah, Gentry’s gotta catch it.”
Melvin Ingram III
By the time to 2021 regular season rolls around, I hope that I don’t continue to call Melvin Ingram the improper “M” first name. Coach Tomlin was asked a similar question to what he’s been asked before in what stands out about Ingram. Of course, the answer was not all that different from when Coach Tomlin has discussed Ingram in the past.
“He knows how to play. He’s a veteran. You feel his veteran presence. You see the thoughtfulness in his skills relative to his position. He looks like a guy who’s done this for a while at this level.”
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.