The Pittsburgh Steelers had their 2021 season come to an abrupt end with their Wild Card loss to the Chiefs on Sunday night. To finish up the season, Mike Tomlin held his final Tuesday press conference. With many players discussed, it’s time for one last 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.
Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, & Dwayne Haskins
One of the biggest questions for the Steelers going into the 2022 is at the quarterback position. Coach Tomlin was asked if the organization is proceeding with the assumption Ben Roethlisberger will not be returning and if Mason Rudolph or Dwayne Haskins is ready to be an every day starter.
“We are proceeding with that assumption. Both guys Mason and Dwayne have had their moments,but they’ll have to prove that. And not only in not only in the team development process, but through playing itself. There are guys that start that I wouldn’t characterize as everyday starters, as you described, and so there’ll be given an opportunity to establish themselves. There’s going to be competition, there always is. And so, they’ll write that story. But I think that both guys have positioned themselves to fight that fight with what they’ve done, from a work standpoint and a professional standpoint in 2021.”
Despite starting for the Steelers the first week of the season, some have forgotten that linebacker Joe Schobert was acquired halfway through the Steelers preseason games. Coach Tomlin was asked if he got what he had hoped for out of Schobert.
“You know, I don’t know that I had a hardcore preconceived notion about what to expect from him. He wasn’t a part of team development. It was an acquisition of opportunity. And so,you probably have less preconceived notions about those things. I’m appreciative of his efforts. There are aspects of his game obviously that I wish were better. But I guess I could have that evaluation tone about most anyone you ask about. But just in terms of anticipation, I don’t know that I had a lot of anticipation because the nature of his acquisition was what it was.”
J.C. Hassenauer & Kendrick Green
The Steelers had a change at the center position towards the end of the season. Coach Tomlin was asked where he sees J.C. Hassenauer and Kendrick Green as they head into the offseason.
“I do believe J.C. gave us the best opportunity to win it at the latter portions of the season and that’s why we played him. And I am optimistic that K.G. has position flexibility.That’s one of the reasons why he was attractive to us. We saw 2020 Illinois tape where he started and played the games at center, and he started and played the games at guard, that’s a component of his resume. But I’m not ready to lay the center work to bed either. We made decisions at the end of the year that gave us the best chance to win based on those circumstances and there’s a myriad of variables in those circumstances and it might not reflect our plans or our intentions as we push forward into 2022.”
One of the upcoming free agents for the Steelers is Terrell Edmunds who did not get his fifth-year option picked up last offseason. Coach Tomlin was asked how he would evaluate Edmunds’ season and if he sees him as being a part of the Steelers defense in the future.
“He did some really nice things this year. I think the first thing you think about when you think about Terrell Edmunds is availability. And I never want to underscore that. This is a guy that’s been ridiculously available to us, not only this year, but over the course of his career. He was 1,000 snap defender as a rookie, and I think that oftentimes we don’t talk enough about availability. Productivity and things, obviously, he did some good things there. But availability is a big component of it. As you mentioned, he is facing free agency and that’s what free agency is. It’s free agency for us, free agency for them. So, we’ll see where those roads lead us, but I am appreciative of what he’s done here. And particularly his ability to be available not only in 2021, but the totality of the time that we’ve been together.”
Tyson Alualu & Stephon Tuitt
The Steelers got a total of two starts between two projected key contributors on the defensive line for 2021. Coach Tomlin was asked if he has had any discussions with Tyson Alualu or Stephon Tuitt about their interest and ability to return next season.
“I have not. I’m just at the very beginning stages of exit interviews and really, I put the young guys oftentimes at the front of the line.”
Devin Bush & Zach Banner
Despite returning for 2021, both Devin Bush and Zach Banner were coming off of ACL surgeries the previous year. Coach Tomlin was asked how he weighs the recovery versus their performance, especially with the decision of the fifth-year option coming up for Bush.
“Those decisions aren’t made in a vacuum when you’re talking about fifth-year option and things of that nature, there’s a global component to it in terms of the rest of the squad. I’m appreciative of the efforts of both guys. It was not an easy process for either guy. We would have liked it to be more fluid. They would have liked it to be more fluid to produce more consistent fluid productivity and availability. But it was what it was. And that’s often the case when you deal with a major knee injury, it’s not always fluid. You like to hope it is but it’s not always the case. And so, I think it’s acceptable to say that, we expect 2022 to be significantly better for most. I think, most statistical data and things that I can reference—experiences that I can reference, that is the case as well. And so, 2021 was what it was for those guys. I think we should all look and can look optimistically in that regard towards 2022.”
Joe Haden & Ahkello Witherspoon
The Steelers have two key contributors at cornerback who will be free agents this offseason in Joe Haden and Ahkello Witherspoon. Coach Tomlin was asked if he would like to have at least one of the guys back and how he viewed the play at cornerback this season.
“Value both guys, their professionalism, things of that nature, things that you value. But much like I was just talking about from a coaching staff standpoint, when you’re dealing with free agency. It’s free agency for us, it’s free agency for them. I’m sure they’re weighing what’s best for them. We need to weigh what’s best for us and oftentimes, that includes them, the field and the draft component. And so, there’s a lot of there’s a lot of significant discussions and plans that need to be had, regarding personnel and our moves regarding them. And if I didn’t acknowledge that, I’d be less than truthful. I value both guys. I’m open to doing business with both guys, but boy, there’s a lot of layers in that discussion that involve them in their position and also people in positions outside of them.”
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