As expected in a typical regular season week, we had a 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.
The biggest point of the press conference was how many wanted to get an update on the injury to T.J. Watt. Coach Tomlin was asked, since he was only ruling Watt out for this week, that if it suggested they aren’t looking at the worst-case scenario.
“That does suggest that, yes.”
In a follow-up question, Tomlin was asked if Injured Reserve is still a consideration for Watt.
“We’ve got time to make decisions such as that. Our decisions that have to be made by the end of the week relative to this game being encountered, and so we’ve got time there. We’re not in a hurry to gather information too quickly. We’ll see how his body responds, we’ll get second and third opinions and at the end of the week, or at some point, we’ll do what’s appropriate.”
In another follow-up question, Tomlin was asked if he anticipated bringing in outside help in regards to Watt’s long-term availability.
“At the very least, we need outside help for practice. I think maybe we’ve worked some people out already today in that vein, but whether or not it leads to participation remains to be seen.”
In another follow-up question, Tomlin was asked if he could definitively say that surgery has been ruled out for Watt.
“I can’t definitively say anything when we’re pursuing second and third opinions.”
In yet another follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he has to protect T.J. Watt from himself wanting to get back out there.
“That’s an honor to do it. I’d rather say ‘woah’ than ‘sick ‘em.’ What are we talking about? We’re talking about protecting a highly competitive, talented guy. That’s the job, so I’m not going to act like that’s a problem.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked if it was normal to get second and third opinions on this injury since they have dealt with players who have had it before such as Stephon Tuitt in 2019 and Cam Heyward in 2016.
“You know more than I do if you know his injury is just like those others that you mentioned.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked when it comes to T.J. Watt how he puts words to the tangible impact he has on the defense as a leader.
“I don’t. He doesn’t need any endorsement from me. It’s T.J. Watt. His hardware and resume speak for itself.”
One of the players who will be looking to carry the load in the absence of T.J. Watt is linebacker Jamir Jones. Coach Tomlin was asked what he saw in Jones to make the Steelers wants to bring him back this year.
“We had a good experience with him last time. You’ve got to make decisions week in and week out in an effort to field the very best group for that specific task, and sometimes young guys and guys on the fringe if you willget lost in the shuffle. Somebody claimed him and we had to move on. We had an opportunity to reconnect and usually, you guys know us, we will do repeat business if it’s a good relationship. So, he’s one of those guys. He’s back here for a second time and usually they’re back here for a second time because they have some things that we value, not only in terms of talent, but in approach to business that are in line with our mantra.”
Another player who did not finish the Steelers first game due to injury was running back Najee Harris. Coach Tomlin was asked if Harris aggravated his injury from training camp.
“No, he did not.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if it was the same foot or the other one.
“I really don’t know, to be honest with you. I know that we’re in an encouraging place and he’s going to participate,and his level and quality of participation is going to be our guide. So, there’s probably not much to write about.”
Earlier in the press conference, Coach Tomlin praised some of the plays made by quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Coach Tomlin was asked how much of his keeping plays alive comes from his veteran experience.
“I think it’s beyond experience. I think his pedigree, he’s an athletic guy. That’s one of the things that was attractive to us in him back in the spring.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked about the fact Trubisky hasn’t turned the ball over in any of his games with the Steelers and if that’s due to experienced decision making or something else.
“It’s probably all the above and then some. Let’s be honest here, I’m getting to know Mitch, so I think anytime he and I step into a stadium, I come out of the stadium with a deeper understanding of what he is and who he is as a man and a player. It’s a process and I don’t resist that process, but I don’t take it for granted at the same time either. We’re learning and growing, and so it’s reasonable to expect him to be better, for me to be better with him, for us to be better with each and every passing day, particularly those days inside stadiums.”
The main player who may have to carry the load in the absence of T.J. Watt is the other starting outside linebacker Alex Highsmith. Coach Tomlin was asked what he was able to see from Highsmith last Sunday to make him so effective.
“I just think it’s a natural maturation process that he’s going through. We drafted him in the third round out of Charlotte, he showed us some things, that he was able to carve out a role for himself in his rookie year and be a third outside linebacker and even playing some packages, we created some packages to be inclusive with him. His second year, he moves into a starting role and does an admirable, varsity job there. So, I just think it’s reasonable to expect that he’s going to continue to improve in the ways that he’s done that since he’s been here. I don’t know that any of us are shocked by the performance. As a matter of fact, I think most of us expect it to continue. You’re not going to get three sacks each and every week, but he’s a good player and he’s a man to be reckoned with for sure.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he expects Highsmith to get more attention with Watt out of the game.
“I’m not in New England, I’m not formulating New England’s plan, so maybe you guys should ask Bill [Belichick].”
Another player who will see an increased role due to T.J. Watt’s injury is newly acquired outside linebacker Malik Reed. Coach Tomlin was asked about Reed not being as tall as Watt and if he, much like James Harrison, uses his leverage really well.
“I’m not going to compare him to James Harrison. I’m not going to let you take me down that road.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked about a smaller player who plays the position and how they are able to get around.
“Yeah, but I’m not going to compare him to James Harrison. I’m not going to let you take me down that road. Malik is a 700-plus snap defender the last two years. His resume speaks for itself. That’s why we went out and acquired him. He’s a very, very credible NFL player and we expect him to play varsity ball for us.”
One player who had an exceptional game on defense for the Steelers on Sunday was safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Coach Tomlin was asked if Fitzpatrick was taking a more vocal step on top of his play and if he will speak more as a leader this year.
“That’s always been Minkah, but you can write that story. He’s vocal, he’s intense, he’s a big-time player and he has been since the day we acquired him on a short week going into San Francisco. He was vocal that week.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked what kind of leader Fitzpatrick is and if he expects him to step up in Watt’s absence.
“I don’t think we’re devoid of leadership. I’m just going to ask the guys to be themselves and I’ll take an additional play or two. I think that’s going to be needed.”
The quote of the day came when Coach Tomlin was asked about UDFA running back Jaylen Warren. Coach Tomlin was asked what he liked about Warren in his first game action and if he is ready to take on an expanded role if necessary.
“He didn’t urinate down his leg and that’s a great place to begin. That’s capable of happening for a young guy, but I think that’s been indicative of him throughout this process, and that’s why he’s gone from being an undrafted guy to a guy that’s carving a role out for himself. Because at no step in team development did, he show that circumstances were too big for him. He was competitive, and he’s being competitive. He was on Sunday, so good for him and good for us.”
With a lot of snaps being logged by players in the secondary, nickel cornerback Arthur Maulet saw a lot of action. Coach Tomlin was asked what he has seen out of Maulet as he gets more time in the slot role.
“He’s getting more comfortable in his shoes, and I think that’s displayed by the extent in which he communicates. He’s a good tackler, he’s a good blitzer, he does the things that we need that position to do and what’s why we were interested in him. But I think in year two, I just feel more fluid communication from him, and I think that’s helpful to him and I think it’s helpful to those around him. Communication is a big component of interior positions because you’ve got people in front of you, people behind you, so it’s big. He’s linebacker like in his position from a communication perspective.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked about Maulet’s play from Sunday including his splash play in overtime.
“I just thought he was engaged and into it. He always is. I thought a step that he took, if you’re looking for a step, I just thought he was a better, cleaner communicator. But I think that’s a reasonable expectation as he’s in year two within our system of football. He’s just talking more openly and freely and that leads to better understanding and faster, solid collective play when we’re all really sure.”
One player who faced a lot of criticism leading up to the regular season was inside linebacker Devin Bush. Coach Tomlin was asked if Bush took a big step forward based on his play on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t call it a big step. I imagine you guys would because that was the narrative you guys were singing, but he did what we expected him to do, which is play winning, varsity football.”
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LIVE: Coach Tomlin addresses the media ahead of our Week 2 game against the Patriots. @PNCBank https://t.co/xQhXNRaAaD— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 13, 2022