With the Steelers making a change at quarterback, there were a lot of questions at 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.
Early in the press conference, Coach Tomlin eliminated all speculation and announced Kenny Pickett as the starter for Week 5. When the question and answer period came around, Coach Tomlin was asked what the tape showed to evaluate Pickett in the second half on Sunday.
“From Kenny? Like I mentioned, I thought he provided a spark for us. I thought we moved it more fluidly. I thought we put some points on the board. Obviously, it wasn’t the perfect half of play. We turned the ball over some,you can’t do that. He’s a young guy and he’s going to grow throughout this process, but make no mistake about it, we’re not grading him on a curve. He’s not grading himself on a curve. There’s an expectation of quality play and playing to win.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked how sustainable the spark Pickett provided is going forward.
“I think he provided a spark in game that is tangible, that we saw and could feel and appreciate. But I think it goes beyond that. I think that he’s kind of provided that spark since we’ve been stepping in stadiums. It’s just a component of who he is as a player and a quarterback, the things that he does, how he communicates, his competitive spirit. I think it’s a positive catalyst for us.”
In another follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if Pickett has naturally been more aggressive and if he’s willing to take risks.
“I think the tape and his play will tell that story over the course of time. Playing and speculating about playing are two different things.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked about what they learned from Pickett in the pre-draft process as to what type of leader he is.
“I’ve watched him grow in those ways in a neighborly sort of way through or during his time at Pitt. It’s something that you can see that he consciously pursued and was thoughtful about, while at the same time, it’s a natural act. I think that’s something that all quality leaders particularly at the quarterback position have. They’d better be intentional, because there’s a myriad of responsibilities that come with being them, but it aids them when it’s a natural act and they have an inclusive personality, they’re good communicators and listeners and so forth. And he’s displayed all of that.”
In another later question, Coach Tomlin was asked if it’s a week-to-week issue with the quarterbacks.
“When we make decisions, we don’t anticipate blowing in the wind. That’s not how we are. At the same time, we understand that what transpires after decision making often determines how we move forward. We’re optimistic and thoughtful in our thought process. We believe in Kenny. We’re getting ready to play this week and we’re singularly focused on preparing for and ultimately playing a good game and winning up there in Buffalo, and really don’t have a lot of thoughts beyond that.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked about Pickett’s availability to make adjustments at the line in his first game since Trubisky was not given much liberty to do so early in the season.
“I don’t know that I agree with that component of the statement. What’s the question?”
To follow up, Coach Tomlin was asked what goes in to having a rookie be able to make calls at the line in his first experience.
“He’s football sharp. He works at it. He’s mature beyond his years. Those are the reasons why we have a level of comfort with some of the things that he’s been able to do relative to what you would expect from a rookie perspective.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked what improvement he saw from 2020 to 2021 in Kenny Pickett after he decided not to enter the NFL draft.
“I don’t know that I evaluated it in that way, to be honest with you. I look at who declares for the draft, who’s draft eligible, and then I start my process. I get on a moving train from a coach’s perspective. Maybe the scouts have different perspectives because they scout in the fall. My process starts in the winter and spring after the season ends. Most of the time, decisions are made about whether to enter the draft or not enter the draft. So, I don’t waste a lot of time covering or studying guys that have decided to go back to school.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he casually saw components of Pickett’s play since he was next door.
“Casually, but not so much so that I can draw a professional analysis in the ways that you asked.”
Mitch Trubisky & Mason Rudolph
In talking about the promotion of Kenny Pickett, there was also the demotion of Mitch Trubisky. With both Trubisky and Mason Rudolph as an option, Coach Tomlin was asked who the backup quarterback is for this week.
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked how Trubisky handled the news of the change at quarterback this week. In his answer, he mentioned Mason Rudolph.
“The way that you would expect. There was disappointment. He’s a competitor. He’s a professional. He’s a hard and diligent worker, he wants to be a positive contributor to our efforts and the reasons why we’re successful and the change doesn’t afford him an opportunity to do those things. It’s something to absorb. We respect it, just in the same ways that we respect some of the things that Mason Rudolph has gone through throughout this process, where he used to be a backup and he’s been No. 3 to this point. Whenever you’re working as a collective, oftentimes there’s setbacks for individuals within the collective as you pursue what it is that we all need. Being part of a team, I think we all understand that. But at the same time, we don’t want to discount it or be insensitive to it because we’re in it. We’re sensitive to the situation that Mitch is in, while at the same time, we’ve got a game to get ready for and we’ve got to ready Kenny. So, I’m sure that Mitch is going to be professional. Mitch has been a part of that program in Buffalo. I’m sure he’s going to be a positive contributor to our readiness and provide awesome insight throughout the preparation process and be a big help to Kenny. I just appreciate the professionalism that all our quarterbacks have displayed throughout this process. All of them, Mason, Kenny, Mitch, they’ve been a pleasure to work with.”
In another follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he considered keeping Trubisky at the starter this week as he is familiar with his former team, the Buffalo Bills
“Yes, I did.”
In another follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if there are aspects of the offensive scheme that he expects to be unique to Pickett that were not there with Trubisky.
“I think that’ll be told over the course of the upcoming weeks with how we play from a personality standpoint and the things or the concepts that we choose to highlight in stadium. Oftentimes you can go into a game with a list of 120 to 160 plays and what you pull off that ready list oftentimes dictates what is perceived as your personality. The plays that we pick off for Mitch might be slightly different in some ways than Kenny. That will be revealed over the course of the upcoming weeks, the differences that you asked about.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked if keeping Trubisky as the backup is a way to keep him more involved as opposed to going with Rudolph.
“No, he’s deserving of that. I don’t know that there’s any messaging associated with it other than the fact that he’s the next best option for us this week as we ready ourselves to play.”
And a follow up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if Trubisky will still go out for the coin toss as a captain.
Coach Tomlin was asked what DeMarvin Leal has been able to do when they put him out there to play edge like they have been doing recently.
“He’s a big guy that’s played in that space. He played in that space at A&M. He’s active. He’s growing every week. He’s getting better. He’s got some talent. We’re excited about the overall trajectory of Leal.”
James Pierre & Josh Jackson
Coach Tomlin was asked about the readiness of cornerback James Pierre and if he will assume a bigger role due to injuries. In his response, coach Tomlin also mentioned practice squad cornerback Josh Jackson who was elevated to the Steelers roster last week.
“We’ll see. That’s what I mean when I talk about the lack of availability this week from a practice standpoint. When you miss guys in practice, it really gives other guys an opportunity to show their readiness, make some plays, show some detail and communication that’s associated with varsity ball, and he’s done a nice job. He’ll be given an opportunity to display those things this week, along with a guy like Josh Jackson and others. We’ll put together a formula and see who best represents themselves and does the things that we need them to do during the course of the week, and we’ll divide the labor up at the end.”
Coach Tomlin was asked, since Watt is still on IR and has a couple weeks left on there, what is his progress at this point.
“He’s on IR and he has a couple weeks still left on there.”
Coach Tomlin was asked where Tre Norwood fits in the safety position with the other starters both banged up and possibly unavailable to practice this week.
“He’s obviously one of them, but we’re going to work all the safeties. If those two guys aren’t practicing, all the other onesare working. So, it’s not about picking and choosing, all of the remaining safeties will get legitimate work this week and they’ll have an opportunity to show detail and playmaking and so forth, and we’ll divide the labor up at the end of the week.”
Calvin Austin III & Damontae Kazee
Coach Tomlin was asked about players eligible to come off the Reserve/Injured List for this week such as Calvin Austin and Damontae Kazee.
“Austin is eligible to come up this week, and by come up, I mean you get an opportunity to start the 21-day window to practice and make judgments from there.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked the exact same question about Austin once again.
“Again, I think that what I just gave is the information that I have. He’s eligible to come off this week. That starts his 21-day window. The quality of his work and what he’s able to do within that window oftentimes determines what you do from there.”
Note: Damontae Kazee still has one more game of his suspension before he is eligible to return.
Coach Tomlin was asked his comfort level with Gunner Olszewski with his punt returning now that he’s fumbled twice.
“Not very high, to be quite honest with you. You can’t put two balls on the ground in four games and feel good about it.Two is a pattern in the National Football League. We say that often. We say that about runners and ball security. Whether there’s four games or eight games of 12 games, two, in our business, is a pattern. So, we’ve got some work there this week and some decisions to make and he’s got to get us to a level of comfort, and we’ll look at some other options as well.”
Coach Tomlin was asked how he evaluates the run game and Najee Harris‘s performance within it.
“Improving every single week. But we’re not graded on improvement, we’re graded on results, and so, they need to continue to improve in the ways that they have in an effort to change the outcome of these games.”
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