As the 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers reported for the first day of traing camp at St. Vincent College on Tuesday, we were also graced with a media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. For that reason, it is the glorious return of the “players mentioned” article after a nearly 6-week absence since minicamp in June. Remember these are current players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period, although there were two key players mentioned in the opening statement. For that reason, those players will be included.
Coach Tomlin made the following statement about Minkah Fitzpatrick:
“Minkah will be placed on NFI. He sustained a wrist injury on vacation. I think he fell off a bike. It will create some short-term discomfort, but I don’t expect it to be an issue in the overall trajectory of his development and his place within this group and stadium availability and things of that nature. It’s just going to create some discomfort for him at the early stages of this.”
Coach Tomlin made the following statement about Tyson Alualu:
“Tyson Alualu has been placed on PUP. He has a knee that’s been swelling on him a little bit, probably from overtraining. Similar discussion as Minkah. We don’t expect it to be significant from a long-term perspective but it will create some discomfort here at the early stages. We’ll monitor those guys.”
One player who did not participate in the Steelers run test on Tuesday was new defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi who was signed since the Steelers minicamp in June. Coach Tomlin was asked if Ogunjobi has a clean bill of health.
“As you guys know, he’s coming off surgery. We exercise precaution because he’s new here and new to us. So as we get to know him, we’re going to proceed with caution so we get a better understanding of how his body works, so we take no steps backward as we proceed, so I wouldn’t read too much into his lack of participation. It’s really just more just to get to know.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he sees Ogunjobi as a nose tackle who can help out at defensive end.
“I like him in both spots. But what we’re talking about probably is 18 percent of our snaps. In today’s NFL you spend so much time in sub package ball that we haven’t wasted a lot of time talking about the oki or the base component of it because so little time is spent there. But there aren’t any reservations in terms of his skill set that would limit him in terms of playing either position.”
In another follow-up question, Tomlin was asked if Ogunjobi is basically a sub package inside rusher.
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked if any sort of consideration was given to the history the Steelers have with Ogunjobi before they signed him.
“Very little. None.”
On Tuesday the Steelers signed a new running back to the 90-man roster in former Tennessee Titan Jeremy McNichols. Coach Tomlin was asked how McNichols fits into the running back mix.
“We’ll see. He’s a guy that has an NFL resume. We’ve been in some stadiums with him in the past. Weknow that he’s capable. He and others will be given an opportunity to kind of define their roles and divide the labor up as we get into it, but we’re happy that he’s with us.”
One of the most highly anticipated players coming into training camp for 2022 is first-round draft pick quarterback Kenny Pickett. Coach Tomlin was asked what he wants to see out of Pickett at training camp, both on the field and off the field with the intangibles.
“I’m not overly concerned about that narrative. I think when you’re 22, 23, 24 years old and you’ve been playing quarterback your whole life, you understand those informal responsibilities that come with the position. I’m more concerned about tangible things, accuracy, taking care of the ball and things of that nature. I don’t have any level of concern about those things being in his wheelhouse. I watched him do it next door in terms of leading his guys and being what we need quarterbacks to be. I don’t think that’s going to be a significant discussion.”
With the Steelers young offense for 2022, one player who is likely to be called on as a leader is second-year running back Najee Harris. Coach Tomlin was asked how Harris can increases leadership at the beginning of training camp.
“He doesn’t have to do anything but be himself. I think that’s an important component of leadership. I don’t ask people to be something that they’re not. It is naturally in his wheelhouse. It is something that just oozes off of him. It’s just about he and us cultivating that and using that for our collective good.”
Coach Tomlin was asked a later question about what he sees in Najee Harris at such a young age that he feels he can be a leader.
“It’s just him. It’s in his personality. I imagine he’s been that on every team he’s ever been on in his lifetime. So it is a natural act for him. So it’s just something that you recognize and you cultivate. It’s not something that’s mandatory in all individuals, it’s a team. It’s appropriate that you have enough of them, but it’s not something that’s mandatory per individuals.”
In a follow-up question, Tomlin was told Najee Harris said earlier in the day that being a vocal leader was not his style. Coach Tomlin was asked what kind of leader he believed Harris to be.
“He’s vocal. He’s just selectively vocal.”
Benny Snell Jr. & Anthony McFarland Jr.
With the signing of another running back on Tuesday, the other players on the depth chart with NFL experience in Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland may now be fighting for a roster spot. Coach Tomlin was asked about any objectives or expectations he has for both Snell and McFarland.
“No, much like we were talking about Jeremy, they’ll be given an opportunity to carve out their roles. We acknowledge some of the things they’ve done in the past, positively, negatively. Build on the positive, minimize the negative. We’ll see what this journey and this process of development holds for those men.
One issue still looming throughout Steelers training camp is if Diontae Johnson will get a new contract prior to the 2022 season. Coach Tomlin was asked if Johnson reported on Tuesday.
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if Johnson will rep like normal.
“I’m not proceeding with any anticipation of any of those type of things, man. He was here on time and did a heck of a job at the conditioning test like everyone else so we keep moving forward.”
Coach Tomlin was asked another follow-up question if he sees a leadership role in Diontae Johnson.
“I do. I do, and not for the first time. I thought he exhibited growth in that area significantly a year ago.”
When speaking to the media earlier on Tuesday, Chase Claypool said he was naïve in the past with how he prepared for an NFL season. Coach Tomlin was asked if he is seeing a more mature player in Chase Claypool coming into camp.
“I think he’ll write that story. I think we just got here a couple hours ago. I can’t give you an answer to that. We just had a conditioning test at 4:00. I think that will continually be revealed.”
During minicamp, new offensive lineman James Daniels was reportedly taking quite a leadership role on the line. Coach Tomlin was asked what he has seen from Daniels so far with the Steelers.
“I don’t know that we’ve been in enough challenging circumstance for that to reveal itself. I would imagine they were just trying to answer questions at that point of team development.”
Coach Tomlin was asked if he could give a fond memory of former quarterback Ben Roethlisberger from past training camps. In his response, Coach Tomlin discussed how Cam Heyward is now in Ben Roethlisberger‘s old room and how it has a much different feel.
“I enjoyed going by Ben’s room. Ben is one of those guys, man, that brought the comforts of home to Latrobe. He spared no expense or amenity. I walked in that room today and I laughed because Cam Heyward is in that room now but it’s less comfortable, I’ll say that. Cam is somewhat of a caveman.”
Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen below.
(Skip to 31:45 for the start of the interview)