The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Training Camp has technically come to an end. Before the closed practice at Heinz Field Thursday morning, head coach Mike Tomlin had his weekly press conference with the Pittsburgh media. Being a formal sit-down conference, there was plenty to take in pertaining to specific players. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.
Steelers fans are ready to see Ben Roethlisberger take the field for the first time in 2021, even if it is just the preseason. Coach Tomlin was asked what the plan was for Roethlisberger’s playing time and for the other quarterbacks.
“We’ll play it by ear. We have a plan but we’re also willing to adjust that plan based on what it is that we see in-stadium.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked exactly how much time Roethlisberger would be given to work with the offense Saturday night.
“We have a plan but we’re going to play it by ear. A lot of it depends on what transpires in-stadium.”
Coach Tomlin was asked yet another question about Roethlisberger pertaining to the offensive line and if they will play beyond Roethlisberger‘s time on the field in order for them to gel together.
“He’s not required for that to happen.”
The Steelers newest addition to the roster is set to see his first action Saturday night. Coach Tomlin was asked about his plan for Joe Schobert and if he was inclined to play him more after not being with the team the first two games.
“We’re gonna play him with the first group. I don’t know if it’s needed to play him any more. He’s proven quickly that his football intellect is on a professional level. He’s adapting quickly and gaining the detail. But playing with people and communicating and working to play together is something that’s going to be continually addressed with him. It’s not going to get solved on Saturday night, so I don’t know that that’s our mentality. We’re going to give him some game exposure with that group and go from there.”
Many of those in Steelers’ Nation are anxious to see what quarterback Dwayne Haskins would do against tougher competition. Coach Tomlin was asked if there was any emphasis on getting Haskins playing time with the ones since he’s mainly been playing with the twos.
“Not in this particular instance, no. The emphasis for this outing, as it pertains to the quarterback position, is getting Ben (Roethlisberger) his first in-stadium exposure of the preseason. We’ll go from there.”
Cam Heyward & Joe Haden
There are a few other Steelers’ veterans who have yet to see the field this preseason. Coach Tomlin was asked specifically about the playing time for Cam Heyward and Joe Haden.
“We’ll have an open door mentality regarding participation. We haven’t finalized participation to this point. All that are healthy will have an opportunity to play in the game. We’ll determine what level of health that is as we get closer, just know that we’re inclusive in terms of our mentality regarding player participation in this one.”
After being helped off the field on practice Tuesday, Chase Claypool appears to not have any serious injury in regards to his ankle. Coach Tomlin was asked if Claypool will be healthy enough to play on Saturday.
“Just like the others, we’ll have an inclusive mentality. We’re not ready to draw the line in the dirt here over 48 hours out from the contest. We’ll gain some clarity about him and some others as we get closer.”
After getting an interception last week against the Eagles, Justin Layne has also got his name mentioned at practice for getting his hands on the football. Coach Tomlin was asked about Layne‘s ability to create turnovers and if it factors into his evaluation of him.
“It’s just a component of it. Obviously, it’s a big component of it. Getting the football is big, not only for individuals but for defensive units. He’s done a nice job in terms of working to improve his skill over this process and consistency in his play. He’ll have an opportunity Saturday night and next week to add to that. It’s reasonable to expect him to continue to have an upward trajectory in terms of the quality of play.”
As the Steelers continue to work through the possibilities at slot cornerback, Cam Sutton returned to the role for the first time this preseason during practice this week. Coach Tomlin was asked if Sutton would see action in the slot on Saturday in order to get more of a look at players on the outside.
“We’ve got different types of slots. We’ve got possession down slots, or two-minute slots, we’ve got first-and-ten slots. We’re working a lot of people to provide a lot of opportunity there. Cam has been a guy that’s played some in there during the course of his career on possession downs, so we worked some possession down things yesterday in that regard, but we’ll continue to cast a wide net and look at a variety of candidates regarding that interior nickel or sub package play. There’s not just a cookie-cutter, there’s not just a nickel. There are first and second down nickels, there are third down nickels, there are two-minute nickels. Versatility is a thing that we value and we’re gonna utilize that situationally, no doubt.”
Stephon Tuitt & Chris Wormley
With Stephon Tuitt not practicing yet for the Steelers, Chris Wormley has got the majority of the first-team reps in his place. Coach Tomlin was asked about Wormley and other defensive lineman taking advantage of playing time due to Tuitt’s absence.
“Whenever someone misses time, I always say one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity. He’s missed some time and it’s provided a lot of reps for a lot of men.”
Coach Tomlin was asked a follow-up question about if he has a timetable for Tuitt to return.
“I don’t. I haven’t asked a lot. I know that he’s had good days. I know progress has been made. I know that he’ll be excited to get back out there with his teammates, but really, I’ve been focused on the guys that are participating.”
Coach Tomlin was asked yet another question about if the issue with Stephon Tuitt is conditioning.
“I don’t have to provide any color to injury status or anything of that nature at this time of year, so I won’t.”
Although he continues to work out every day the Steelers are on the field, T.J. Watt has yet to participate in any team activities. Coach Tomlin was asked if there was a plan or an update on Watt’s status.
“None as I sit here today, no.”
One of the battles coming into training camp was for the third tight end on the roster. Coach Tomlin was asked if Zach Gentry has established himself in the third spot at this time.
“He’s had great progress. We’re not ready to paint with a broad brush yet in terms of dividing the labor up or identifying roles. But he’s done a nice job and he’s particularly utilized his skillset that’s a little bit different from others in the room. Zach is six-eight, 280 plus, so it’s reasonable to expect some of those skills to turn up in line of scrimmage play and blocking and in the run game, and it has.”
A portion of Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen below with a link to the entire press conference on the Steelers YouTube channel.