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Mike Tomlin and the Steelers’ defense a week-by-week unit

The Pittsburgh Steelers were winners in Week 1, but the way they did it will likely change by the week.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Buffalo Bills Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in their Week 1 game vs. the Buffalo Bills on the road, and they now prepare for their home opener against the visiting Las Vegas Raiders. As the Raiders prepare to go across country on a short week, the questions fired at Mike Tomlin during his Tuesday press conference were about the team’s dominant defense.

Was the play at nickel by design?

Will the team limit blitzing moving forward?

The snap distribution at the outside linebacker position, is this something fans can expect more of as the season progresses?

Tomlin made it very clear at each juncture throughout his weekly press conference to mention how the Steelers’ defense is not set in stone. In fact, the defense is almost an enigma which will constantly change.

At the nickel cornerback position, it was rookie 7th round pick Tre Norwood who was manning that role, but Norwood is just one piece of the puzzle. Tomlin cited how Norwood, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Cam Sutton’s position versatility allows the Steelers to be flexible with how they utilize the position moving forward.

Likewise, a lot was made of the Steelers only blitzing twice vs. the Bills in Week 1, but Tomlin continued to sing a similar song. It worked in Week 1, and it was the plan, but that doesn’t mean the Steelers won’t be blitzing Derek Carr when the Raiders visit this Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

When the outside linebacker trio of T.J. Watt, Melvin Ingram and Alex Highsmith were brought up, Tomlin wasn’t about to sit behind the podium and talk about snap count distribution. In his words, he isn’t going to “be a slave” to snap distribution.

What he did suggest is how they have three “Varsity” players who are all significant contributors to the defense moving forward. He even went as far as saying there might be situations where all three will be on the field at the same time, if the right situation took place.

This shouldn’t be news to those who pay attention not just to the Steelers, but to the National Football League. It is a week-by-week league, and the Steelers’ dominant defense falls into that category. If Tomlin feels Arthur Maulet would give the Steelers a better opportunity to win by playing the slot, fans will see Maulet instead of Tre Norwood at nickel. Likewise, there is a chance Tomlin tells Keith Butler to blitz the Raiders’ offensive front until they can’t blitz anymore.

Whatever it takes to win, and in the NFL that’s all that matters. Be prepared for something different at Heinz Field in Week 2, unless they feel they can do what they did last week and still leave victorious. That is the beauty of such a dynamic, and versatile, defensive unit.

Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the Raiders in Week 2.


Check out BTSC’s podcast on the Mike Tomlin Press Conference: