With the Steelers falling to the Cincinnati Bengals 37-30 this past 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.
As expected, there were plenty of questions about the Steelers rookie quarterback. To start, Coach Tomlin was asked how important it is to Pickett’s growth that he’s able to recognize pressure and step up in the pocket.
“It is significant. Very.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked about the signs of growth from Pickett he saw in the first half of Sunday’s game. In his response, Coach Tomlin mentioned an answer he had about George Pickens which is highlighted in the next section below.
“He’s getting better in all areas, guys, just the same way that George Pickens is getting better. I’m not going to comb through it every week. It’s moving in the direction that we would like it to. Sure, could it move faster? Absolutely. I don’t think anybody is patient, including Kenny. This is not a patient man’s business. You work while you wait, and that’s what he and we are doing. But he’s doing a nice job just in general.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked about what he learned from Kenny Pickett the last time they were in Indianapolis which was for the combine and if he spent any time with him specifically.
“I didn’t. I knew all that I needed to know about him prior to going to Indy. I focused on guys that I knew less about.”
In another follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked about surrendering less sacks on Sunday and if it was from better blocking or better recognition from Pickett.
“All of the above.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked how Pickett deals with the adversity behind the scenes.
“He’d be better equipped to answer that than I. But he’s a football junkie. He’s a competitor. Obviously, in the stadium he’s emotional, there’s emotions, but out of the stadium, he’s a professional.”
Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, & Pat Freiermuth
One player who has struggled compared to years past with the Steelers is wide receiver Diontae Johnson. Coach Tomlin was asked if the numbers being down for Johnson were from the way he’s being defended or if it’s the rookie quarterback to looking his way. In his response, Coach Tomlin mentioned George Pickens and Pat Freiermuth.
“Let’s be frank, okay? Diontae is a known commodity within the group. People are going to have an agenda to minimize his impact on the game, particularly in significant moments, possession-down, redzone football. When you’ve got a guy that’s been a Pro Bowler —and really, he’s kind of the only one when you’ve got a young group— that’s a component of it. So, how do you open up opportunities for a guy like that? Other guys make plays. [George] Pickens had a nice game, [Pat] Freiermuth had a nice game. Those things create opportunities and balance within your attack, and opportunities for a guy like Diontae, which you mentioned.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked how to keep Johnson’s spirits up when he’s not getting targets and he’s wanting to be more involved.
“He is a professional. Obviously, there’s frustration; he wants to be a component of why we win and the significant component. But he is also a professional and he understands the dynamics of team play and what has to transpire for him to get opportunities. As a young guy, he’s been a beneficiary of that in the past, as people have focused their energies on other known guys, for example.”
The next question was in regards to George Pickens where Coach Tomlin was asked what he has seen from his growth and what more he needs to see from him (which was referenced previously).
“Just the continued growth in all areas. Nuances of the game, situational play, fundamentals, things specific to his position, releases, route running, hand selection. There’s a lot of meat on that bone. He’s a very talented guy, and he’s making plays along the way, but it’s reasonable to expect his growth and maturation to continue and really to continue at an accelerated rate as he logs snaps and gains experience and learns from those.”
The very next question went back to Diontae Johnson where coach Tomlin was asked if he has to pull Johnson aside to talk about his frustration or if it’s kind of understood.
“There’s nothing new about that. You talk about any experienced receiver that gets minimized on a weekend, there’s frustration associated with it. I imagine Tyler Boyd wanted the ball more than he got it, but we were able to identify and try to minimize his impact on the game because they didn’t have [Ja’Marr] Chase, for example. So, that’s just things that transpire each and every week inside NFL stadiums from a strategy standpoint.”
Jaylen Warren, Najee Harris, & Benny Snell
Running back Jaylen Warren was injured early in the Steelers Week 11 matchup and Najee Harris had to carry the load throughout the game. Coach Tomlin was asked how much it affected Harris to have the increased workload, especially the second half when he didn’t get a lot of carries. In his response, Coach Tomlin also brought up running back Benny Snell.
“It affected our intentions, but Benny Snell steps up and Naj [ee Harris]absorbs more snaps, that’s football. The attrition component of play is a significant component of play. We tend to focus our energies on those available to us and don’t waste a lot of time lamenting the people that we don’t have. We have that mindset when we’re planning during the course of work week like this, or we have that same mentality when things transpire in game.”
T.J. Watt & Alex Highsmith
The Steelers have now had two-straight games with T.J. Watt in the lineup. Coach Tomlin was asked how he’s feeling about his performance and dealing with a massive amount of attention that’s paid to him and the holds he’s been dealing with. In his response, Coach Tomlin also brought up Alex Highsmith.
“Typical T.J. stuff. He’s playing at a high level; he’s playing so well. Alex [Highsmith] has been Defensive Player of the Week since he’s been back, I mentioned that. He’s going to find ways to be disruptive whether they put two people on him, whether they hold him or what have you. I think that’s what elite guys do. I did an offseason study a number of years ago as he was moving into that elite status in an effort to have clear conversations with him. I put Von Miller’s career sacks on a reel, I put some elite guys’ career sacks on a reel. All of their reels worked through chips and double teams and tight-end body positions and so forth. Top notch guys, they deal with a lot of things, schematics, multiple people holding, and they’re still top-notch guys. I know that T.J. embraces that component of being him. When we know that those things occur, that creates pure one-on-one opportunity for others, and everyone eats because of it. That’s just a function of team football.”
Pressley Harvin III
In his opening statement, Coach Tomlin specifically mentioned how he liked the contributions from the punting game on Sunday. Coach Tomlin was asked what stats he specifically looks for to measure if his punter is doing well.
“Net punting. Inside the 20 relative to touchbacks. There’s a ratio there given opportunities. There’s a component of play that we evaluate and value that doesn’t get a lot of recognition. It’s placement. This is not checkers; this is chess when you’re punting in the National Football League. We want distance, we want hang time. We also want ball placement. Balls in the middle of the field are not good. Balls on the sideline are great. And so, there’s a lot of things that come into the evaluation of punting play in today’s game, and Pressley’s doing a good job in year two of really growing in all areas and checking the boxes that we need him to check in terms of being a positive contributor to our efforts.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if the directional punting to the sideline on Sunday was the best he had done at that in his young career.
“He’s been working extremely hard. I can’t really pinpoint exactly right now, but it was a good performance, yes.”
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