With the Steelers suffering an embarrassing defeat on Sunday, there were a lot of questions at the Mike Tomlin 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.
In the opening of the press conference, Coach Tomlin described Cam Sutton as being “out.” during the question and answer period. Coach Tomlin was asked if he meant out for now or out for the game.
“He’s out for now. We’ll let his availability or lack thereof be our guide. He’s kind of in the same spot that he was in a week ago, and then it got to a certain point in the game where he couldn’t finish anymore. Let’s see where this week leads us from a health standpoint in that regard.”
One of the Steelers secondary who could return this week is Terrell Edmunds who missed Week 5 with a concussion. Coach Tomlin was asked if Edmunds is still in the concussion protocol.
“He is. I don’t have definitive results, but it looks like he’s moving towards the end of that being that he was in it a week ago.”
Unfortunately, Kenny Pickett‘s first career NFL start did not end well from a team standpoint. Coach Tomlin was asked what stuck out to him about Pickett’s performance and any areas he’d like to see him continue to grow.
“I liked a lot of what he did, but we lost and lost definitively, so I don’t know that we’re seeking comfort in that regard. I know that you guys have a lot of questions regarding his growth and development. I thought he was competitive, I thought he communicated well, I thought he made good and timely decisions. Nothing disappointing in terms of what we saw from him, we just need more of it. We’ve got to get better. We have to get collectively better, and he’s a component of that.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked about Pickett’s comments about being willing to do whatever it takes to win and what he can really expect out of him.
“I expect him to do exactly just that. To do what’s required to win and put us in position to win. That’s why we’re playing him at quarterback.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked about his comments about Pickett being in a tough situation and what he has seen from him that says he’s ready to lead at this specific time.
“Like I’ve mentioned repeatedly when asked about Kenny, I think since the time we stepped into the first preseason stadium, I’ve seen nothing but a rapid ascent in his capabilities, his professionalism, his mindset, what he brings to us, and I just think it’s reasonable to expect that to continue, regardless of how rough the waters are.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tom was asked if Pickett can be a focal point for the rest of the office to rally around.
“Seemingly so, certainly. I think that’s why we put him in at the position. Certainly.”
In a later question, after mentioning that the game had gotten away from the Steelers which put Pickett in a rough situation, Coach Tomlin was asked about what the team can do to set Pickett up to have more consistent, successful drives.
“Again, you said it, we’ve got to keep games closer, man. When you’re in games, you have everything on the menu at your disposal. When you’re not in games, you get somewhat one-dimensional, you get more predictable, play passes less effective, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. It’s a global thing. We understand that, not to make it an insurmountable obstacle, I’m not suggesting that, we’re very capable of correcting the things that are issues for us. But there’s a lot of variables at play when you’re talking about the question that you outlined.”
One player who has been disappointing thus far in his second season is running back Najee Harris. Coach Tomlin was asked why Harris isn’t producing like he did last year and if the injury is at all a part of it.
“He missed some time in team development, and that may be a component of him finding or not finding rhythm. But probably it’s just reflective of kind of where we are. It’s tough to analyze individual components of something when things unfolded, particularly last Sunday, the way that they unfolded from a collective perspective.”
Fortunately for the Steelers, they have a quality back-up running back so far in 2022 with rookie Jaylen Warren. Coach Tomlin was asked if he would consider playing Warren more.
“We’ve been playing Jaylen increasingly anyway, and I think that’s going to continue. I think he’s proven that he’s a capable varsity player,and we need players from all parties involved. That has transpired and will continue to transpire. I think, if you talk about touches and rhythm and things of that nature, you win weighty downs, you win possession downs, and that allows you to possess the ball and to continue to snap it and that creates more opportunity for everyone, whether it’s the run game, whether it’s targets from a receiving standpoint, whether it’s running back rhythm, whether it’s things that supplement, core plays, play action, etcetera. The winning of possession downs aids all of those discussions because it produces more downs.”
It was reported after the game Steelers cornerback Arthur Maulet was upset with teammates who were smiling and laughing during/after the game. Coach Tomlin was asked if he saw anything like that on the sidelines, but instead Coach Tomlin chose to address the issue of Maulet’s frustration.
“When you’re getting smashed like that, emotions and pissed-off-ness in all of that is a component of it. You’re naïve if you think that it’s not. We don’t like getting smashed; we don’t like getting beat. We were getting smashed. All of those things are normal if you will, expressions of frustration, the question of desire and things of that nature. That’s what competitors do, particularly when you get smashed. I’m not going to read too much into it. We got smashed last Sunday, we’ll roll our sleeves up and go back to work and understand that man, that was not fun, and we’ve got to do things differently.”
A key loss during the game for the Steelers on the defensive front was Larry Ogunjobi. Coach Tomlin was asked about getting pressure from the defensive front in order to help a secondary decimated by injury, and in his response Coach Tomlin specifically mentioned the injury to Ogunjobi.
“Yeah, but we had some guys missing up front. Larry O wasn’t able to finish the game, for example. We had some attrition in that space as well, so we’ll make decisions. Oftentimes, where we place pressure in terms of delivering plays are circumstantial. In some instances and circumstances, you place pressure on the secondaries, you load the box, and in other instances, paths and circumstances, you place the pressure on the front. I think that’s just a common component. There are multiple variables. All those conversations are always complex ones, one that we’re definitely willing to have, and appropriately so given the state of some of the availability. It’s a coach’s challenge, and it’s something that I’m excited about generally.”
The Steelers only had one quarterback hit on Sunday and it came from safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Coach Tomlin was asked about improving on the defensive front if it’s winning one-on-one battles or scheming better opportunities. In his response, Coach Tomlin mentioned Fitzpatrick’s blitz.
“It’s, again, multi-variable. It’s more than just beating people when you’re playing a guy with Josh Allen’s mobility, quarterback mobility is a factor. Smaller people, athletes, become a component of the rush. You mentioned Minkah, for example. Game plan-related things, there were things that transpired in stadium on Sunday that were components of game-plan related things that are less significant as we prepare for our next outing.”
Another player who may or may not be available this week after missing two games is cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. Coach Tomlin was asked where Witherspoon is at physically.
“It’s to be determined. He’s scheduled to work some this week, and we’ll let that work be our guide in terms of his availability.”
The Steelers attempted to change the kick returner in Week 5, but Steven Sims was unable to take the field for the Steelers first kickoff return which ended in a fumble. Coach Tomlin was asked what happened to Sims before the game and how he plans on handling the return position.
“We expect him to be healthy, and if healthy, he’s going to be our return man.”
As a captain, Cam Hayward spoke about the Steelers owning up to things. Coach Tomlin was asked if he sees guys needing to own up to things at this point.
“No, but we’d better state the obvious, because guys like myself and Cam have been in negative circumstances before, and we understand potentially what’s capable under those circumstances. That’s why we say what it is that we say.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked how he prevents the natural human emotion to allow things to fester instead of remaining resilient. In his response, Coach Tomlin mentioned Cam Heyward again.
“I think that’s kind of what we’ve been touching on in a myriad of ways. What she was referring to when she asked me what Cam said and why I said what I said. You continually educate and train young people about the nature of professional sports and the challenges, not only inside the white lines, but leading up in preparation for and some of the things that come with. That’s the job of guys like myself, that’s the job of veteran teammates and we don’t run away from that, we run to that. When it’s miserable, it’s a great opportunity to educate. So, we embrace that.”
Since 2017, the Steelers have still not won a game in which T.J. Watt did not take the field. Coach Tomlin was asked if there are any updates on Watt.
“None. None today.”
Pat Freiermuth & Levi Wallace
There has been a lot of emphasis on concussions in the NFL in 2022. Coach Tomlin was asked how concerned he is with the protocols moving forward with Pat Freiermuth and Levi Wallace.
“I’ve got a great deal of confidence in our medical experts, but I didn’t go to med school. I don’t make decisions. I hear from them and their expertise is our guide.”
For more information on Mike Tomlin’s press conference, check out the podcast below:
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