The 2021 NFL regular season is underway and teams are starting to get into a routine with what occurs during a typical game week. As the Steelers begin their preparation for their first AFC North matchup, head coach Mike Tomlin held his regularly scheduled press conference on Tuesday. With many players discussed, it’s time for another 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.
One new player who showed up on the Steelers injury report from Coach Tomlin on Tuesday was quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with a left pec injury. Coach Tomlin was asked if he knew specifically when Roethlisberger‘s injury occurred.
“I don’t know specifically when Ben got injured in-game. I don’t know that he does. Sometimes just in the midst of competition, adrenaline and so forth, you just don’t know. Sometimes things just come up after.”
Coach Tomlin was asked a follow-up question about if Roethlisberger and the receivers have been on the same page as much as he would like them to this season.
“Largely, yes. For sure.”
Coach Tomlin was asked another question about if Ben Roethlisberger took too many hits in the game.
“Yeah, he did. He took too many hits. We can run the ball better. We can get the ball out of his hand quicker. We can stay on schedule and not get behind the sticks and get in situations where the line of gain is so far that it enhances the rush.”
Coach Tomlin was asked yet another question if Roethlisberger and Matt Canada are communicating as he expects.
“Very much so. The communication has been really good. I like the growth, the direction of that growth. They’re 1-1 like I’m 1-1. We’re all 1-1, if that’s what you’re asking in terms of evaluation of where we are. We’re a 1-1 football team.”
Through two games, Steelers first-round draft pick Najee Harris has only missed three offensive snaps. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he has seen from Harris through his first eight quarters of play.
“With each passing quarter that you mentioned, he’s been better. Not that that’s unexpected. We spent a lot of time talking about the cohesion and the development and the comfortability of the blockers, but the same could be said for the runner who’s also played eight quarters of NFL football. He was better last week than he was in Week One in terms of the things that we value, maybe some things that aren’t valued to the naked eye but just our professionalism things, mechanic things, technical things. He’s going to continue to get comfortable, and by comfortable, I mean understanding that your preparation sets you up for performance. That’s something that a young guy has to get comfortable with. Why do we do what we do on a Wednesday and what does it do in terms of setting me up for success on a Sunday? He’s been through a couple of weeks, he’s been through a couple of those cycles. He’s gaining an understanding about what the process does in terms of setting them up for performance and, thus, it should put him in position to let his natural talents come out in play. I’m expecting him to get routinely better with each outing and excited about that.”
One player who hasn’t been seeing offensive snaps through two games is fullback Derek Watt. Coach Tomlin was asked if the use of Watt could help improve the run game.
“That’s an option as well. Like I mentioned in regard to no-huddle, we’ve got a limited number of snaps that we have available to us from a preparation standpoint, and we make decisions week in and week out based on matchups and our perceived strengths versus their potential perceived strengths. Derek is a valued member of our team. He’s the captain of our special teams. He’s a very credible fullback. Some weeks, he’s going to be featured; some weeks, he’s going to not be featured, and sometimes it might not have anything to do with his capabilities. It’s just the nature of this thing James Washington is a very capable receiver. Some weeks, he gets more opportunity than others. Oftentimes, you get questions like that when you’re unsuccessful. I get it, but it doesn’t change our approach.”
Pat Freiermuth & Eric Ebron
In only two games of the 2021 season, rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth has seen more snaps than veteran Eric Ebron. Coach Tomlin was asked about how Freiermuth his taken on the week-to-week challenges and if they will look to get him the ball more.
“Much like the outside linebackers, I’m not going to come in here and carve out snap distributions to you guys and explain it week in and week out. We’ve got viable players, some at the same position, and we’re going to utilize all of them. I really want to highlight their individual talents, whatever they maybe, whether it’s matchup-related or whether it’s schematics or the things that we’re trying to do. Pat, like all the other young guys that we’ve been talking about, is really getting better with each opportunity, and it’s reasonable to expect that to continue. He has been a really positive contributor to our efforts thus far, so I’m excited about what the short-term and the long-term future holds for him.”
Carlos Davis & Isaiah Buggs
Another player dealing with injury for the Steelers is defensive lineman Carlos Davis who missed Week 2. Coach Tomlin was asked if Davis would be available and if he would see more snaps with the injury to Tyson Alualu. In his response, Coach Tomlin also brought up Isaiah Buggs.
“We’ll see. We haven’t practiced yet this week. We’ll let his participation be our guide in terms of where he is, but obviously he is a guy that has a chance to have an expanded role. Isaiah Buggs is a guy that has a chance to have an expanded role. But we’ve called on those guys in an expanded capacity in the past. I think Buggs had a couple of significant games for us at Baltimore late in the year last year, where he had an expanded role. We expect him to deliver, and we expect Carlos to deliver if called upon in an increased fashion.”
Jamir Jones, James Pierre, & Robert Spillane
With T.J. Watt suffering an in-game injury on Sunday, rookie Jamir Jones saw much more snaps on defense. Coach Tomlin was asked about what he has seen from Jones this season. In his response, Coach Tomlin also brought up James Pierre and Robert Spillane.
“He’s done solidly. He did solidly in preseason stadiums. He registered production in those games: tackles, pressures, sacks, etc. He’s been a quality special teamer for us. He had a tackle last week, I think, on punt in the Vegas game. He’s doing the things that young guys do, the natural maturation process. They show you glimpses on offense and defense, and so they develop in that area. All the while, they’re productive special teams’players—and he has been that—and they wait for their opportunities on offense or defense. James Pierre is a guy that walked a similar path a year ago and now James Pierre is a regular contributor on defense. He’s going through that. He might get an increased opportunity to participate this week due to the circumstances involving others, but that’s just the nature of this thing. That’s why every man is viable, every man is working with great urgency, and when I ring their bell, they’d better answer. You guys have gotten to know guys like Robert Spillane under similar circumstances, because of someone else’s misfortune. We’re all excited for guys like J. Jones in circumstances like this, if he gets an opportunity to have an increased role. We expect those guys to step through that crack in the door and elevate themselves from a career standpoint.”
The Steelers were also a man down on the offensive line at the end of Sunday’s game with the ejection of guard Trai Turner. Coach Tomlin was asked if he had a meeting with Turner about the incident.
“I didn’t. I didn’t. Much like I mentioned after the game, Trai is no kid. He’s very cerebral, largely. He understands what that circumstance did to us collectively, as a team. He was more than apologetic. It required no meeting.”
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