The Pittsburgh Steelers attempted to practice on Tuesday but ultimately were washed out after very limited work due to storms. Luckily Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin hads his normal Tuesday press conference before the team was schedule to take the field. 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.
Going into the Steelers second preseason game of 2021, some arewondering if the Steelers would mix up the order in which quarterbacks appear. Coach Tomlin was asked if he would adjust how much the quarterbacks play in-game based on the situation. In his response, Coach Tomlin specifically brought up Mason Rudolph.
“We always have a hard-core plan and we’re always willing to adjust as we see fit in-game. And that’s not only with that circumstance but that’s with any circumstance. I intended for Mason to play two series last week. I wanted to give him another one because we turned the ball over in an exchange and I didn’t like the feeling of that, so he played three series. We always have a plan, we’re always light on our feet based on what transpires in-game, and I just think that’s football.”
A lot has been made as to where Kevin Dotson is on the depth chart once he has returned from injury. Coach Tomlin was asked if he was happy with Dotson’s approach during his return to full health.
“I didn’t have direct eyes on what he was doing with trainers. Again, like in most instances, I focus my energy on those that are working because we have people assigned to those that are less than available. They do a great job of driving them and making sure they’re having positive days on the road to recovery. I was pleased with the reports I got from the people that had direct hands on him, but I really don’t start laying eyes on guys until they’re back and working.”
After rumors of wide receiver James Washington requesting a trade were dismissed this week by Coach Tomlin, Washington left Monday’s practice with an injury. Coach Tomlin was asked if there was any update on Washington.
“Yeah, he got evaluated yesterday. He may miss a day or two but we’re not expecting him to miss a significant amount of time with the personal injuries that he’s dealing with.”
T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, Melvin Ingram III, and Zach Gentry
My goodness did Coach Tomlin go off on mentioning players in his next response. In a question about the uniqueness of T.J. Watt’s situation with his contract, coach Tomlin brought up even more players such as Cam Hayward, Melvin Ingram, and Zach Gentry in his lengthy response.
“Not unique at all, really. That negotiation process is gonna run its course. Some run their courses faster than others. If I remember correctly, Cam Heyward had less than 100 percent participation when he was in a similar circumstance a short time ago. Again, like I said, I like to focus my energies on the guys that are working, and I’m less concerned about the guys that aren’t whether it’s contractually related or injury related. At this time of the year, I’m all eyes on the guys that are working. One man’s misfortune or inconvenience is an opportunity for another. We’ve got plenty of days ahead, particularly in circumstances where guys are veterans, they know what they’re doing. Oftentimes, you’re thinning the herd and you’re getting more exposure to others. I’m excited about the exposure I’ve been able to get with Melvin Ingram III, for instance, because (T.J.)’s not been participating. And Melvin’s had an opportunity to work with the first group and really gain cohesion with some of those guys. That’s where I focus my energies. The business is going to run its course. He’s highly conditioned. Our strength staff is working with him. He’s getting in good workdays. The process is running its course. In the meanwhile, I’m focused on the guys that are working and their level of productivity and what type of days they’ve been having. It’s funny, I challenged Melvin Ingram this morning in the team setting. We’re coming after Melvin Ingram today with tackle-over, out-net space with some big tight ends like Zach Gentry. Melvin’s a run game bully so we want to get to know him a little bit today.”
Coach Tomlin was asked a follow-up question if T.J. Watt could jump in Week 1 of the regular season if things don’t get resolved before then.
“I’m not into the hypotheticals. We’ll deal with today and then we’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow. We can talk all day about hypotheticals relative to that issue and others.”
The next question came back to Melvin Ingram and asked if he was healthy when he signed with the Steelers.
“We had no reservations about his health. We understand that he had an injury last year, but that was handled through the physical process in terms of examining him before we signed him. I’ve just been excited about getting to know him as a player and looking at his skillset and figuring out ways we can infuse him into what it is that we do. It’s been a fun process. He’s a football-lover, he’s a competitor, he likes to work. He’s been fitting in nicely with the guys, so it’s been a fun process.”
Coach Tomlin was also asked if he makes the decision about T.J. Watt’s practice status or if it comes from someone else within the organization.
“I’m not gonna peel back the curtain in regard to that. It’s unnecessary and all it does is add to the brushfire. We’re just gonna focus on the ball.”
Although the next question was asked about both Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram as well as T.J. Watt being mentioned in the response, it was too much to add to the previous section. Therefore, Alex Highsmith is standing alone with this one question. Coach Tomlin was asked about the flexibility of Ingram and Highsmith being able to play both sides at outside linebacker.
“I just think flexibility helps us, particularly when you’re playing with a guy like T.J. You fast-forward, you’ve got all three guys, everybody needs to be versatile for a lot of reasons. T.J. attracts a lot of attention. Moving him around means that you’ve got to move around people that play with him, so that collective versatility within that group is required.”
Carlos Davis & Donovan Stiner
Coach Tomlin was asked about what he saw from his depth on the defensive front seven in the Hall of Fame Game. In his response, Coach Tomlin specifically mentioned Carlos Davis and referenced the interception by Donovan Stiner.
“I did, and that’s what I mean when I say I focus my energies on the guys that are playing. One man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity. We’ve got some quality young players that are battling for positions that want to display growth. You shouldn’t assume that the guys are the same as they were a year ago. I’ve been pleased with the growth and development of Carlos Davis, for example. That’s a guy that’s had some elevated varsity reps, if you will, because of lack of participation of some of the more veteran guys. I like some of the things that he’s displayed. He ran a quality game and had a quarterback hit on the interception by Donovan on the third-down play in the Hall of Fame game. We talk about the interception but rushing coverage works together, and it’s a component of good collective defensive play. That’s just an example of growth in that specific area. I thought that group did a nice job and I’m excited about watching them take a step this week.”
The newest integral piece of the Steelers offensive line is Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner. Coach Tomlin was asked if he has a chance to get to know Turner better and can discuss his strengths. Although Coach Tomlin brought up Kendrick Green in his response, he will be highlighted himself later.
“It’s been good to watch him work and see that he’s a communicator. He’s embraced the stage that he’s in in his career. Although he’s new to us, he’s doing a real good job of communicating with younger players like Kendrick Green in terms of coordinating cohesion and just talking general NFL football and life with him. Oftentimes, you can see those two guys working after practice, reviewing whatever transpired collectively between them during the course of a workday. And that developing relationship is being initiated by Trai. I appreciate that. I expect him to do his job and do his job well. I’m appreciative when I see him doing the things that add value to us in an intangible way. He’s shown that. He’s been a football lover. He’s enjoying the process, he’s getting to know his teammates, and he’s adding value to us in informal ways like that.”
It will be rare that a Mike Tomlin press conference goes by without mention of 2021 first-round draft pick Najee Harris. Coach Tomlin was asked if he saw enough from Harris last week that he may cut back his time against the Eagles on Thursday.
As promised, Coach Tomlin was asked a couple of questions about rookie third-round draft pick Kendrick Green. Coach Tomlin’s first question was asking if we should read anything into the fact Green has been exclusively working with the starters.
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked qualities in which Green has impressed him so far.
“It’s a work in progress. I do like his level of maturity, and I think that’s why he’s in the position that he’s in to be a viable candidate for play. But day to day, he’s experiencing the normal challenges that this process presents to a young guy and he’s doing a nice job of learning. And like I tell him and all the others, it’s his job to eliminate problems quickly and hopefully get to the stage where he’s eliminating problems before they happen. That’s varsity at this level.”
A replay of Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen below.