For the first time in 2022 NFL regular season we have a Mike Tomlin press conference on the regularly scheduled 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.
After what was described as a “clerical error” placed Kenny Pickett at the bottom of the depth chart at quarterback, Coach Tomlin confirmed Pickett is the number two. Coach Tomlin was asked if Pickett will take all the practice reps as the backup quarterback this week.
“He will, yes.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if there are any plans to sprinkle in a package using Pickett in the game.
“Not as I stand here today, no.”
Unfortunately for Mason Rudolph, the change in the depth chart caused him to drop to the number three position. Coach Tomlin was asked what was behind the discrepancy in the depth chart.
“It was a clerical error. That’s how the depth chart was listed at the start of training camp. The cut-and-paste component was the cut-and-paste component. I know you were hoping for a little bit more colorful explanation, but it is what it is. That’s what happened.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he had to explain the clerical error to the quarterbacks.
“We talked yesterday. They understood where we were, so I’d imagine they viewed it as such.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he needed to find a balance when it comes to dealing with Mason Rudolph’s involvement.
“We’re singularly focused on winning football games. We don’t have any side agendas or things of that nature. Sometimes we make the simple complex by adding ridiculous complexities. We have to get the football team ready to go to Cincinnati and win a game, and the quarterbacks are a component of that. The first quarterback, the second quarterback and the third quarterback all have defined roles and they need to perform them very well like the rest of us, regardless of what our roles may be.”
Although he was believed to be the starter especially once the depth chart was released Monday, Coach Tomlin confirmed Mitch Trubisky will be the starting quarterback this week. Coach Tomlin was asked what separated Trubisky and Picket during the process.
“Again, like I mentioned and outlined extensively, he’s comfortable in those shoes. Talking about Mitch, he’s worn them before, and he performed extremely well. His mobility is a major component of his status and what it brings to us. And Kenny got better with each and every opportunity inside stadiums.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked if he learned anything about Trubisky as a leader that he didn’t know when he was first signed.
“I didn’t know much about Mitch when we signed him, so it’s all been a learning process, a get-to-know, and it’s been a pleasant one.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked when Trubisky established himself as the number one quarterback and if it was a decision they came to at the 11th hour.
“It is continual. It has been and will continue to be, I would imagine.”
Another player of note who moved up the depth chart is running back Jaylen Warren who is now in the second spot. Coach Tomlin was asked what stood out about Warren and what role could he have in the offense.
“He’s been highly consistent when given opportunities in just about all areas, whether it’s running the ball inside or out, whether it’s in the passing game or whether it’s in the blitz pickup. He’s just been highly competitive in all circumstances. You can also include special teams in that. So, he’ll get an opportunity to carve out a role for himself if you will as we continue to play. I just think it’s important to acknowledge that we’ll have a hardcore plan as we step into stadium one, but those plans are subject to change,and those plans get hardened. The more stadiums you step in, the division of labor gets more defined, and roles grow and diminish based on performance.We’re excited about where he is, but he’ll continually carve out a niche for himself in this thing, not only this week, but in the upcoming weeks.”
In other news from Monday, Najee Harris was selected as one of the five captains for the Steelers for 2022. Coach Tomlin was asked how he sees the leaders on this team setting the tone as they go into Week 1. In his response, Coach Tomlin specifically mentioned Harris.
“They’re going to have an opportunity to do that. We just named captains yesterday, and so it was interesting. I had a cool conversation with Najee [Harris]. He was excited about being a first-time captain. He said, ‘What does this mean to me?’ I said it means absolutely nothing. It means conduct yourself in the way that you’ve conducted yourself because your teammates think that’s admirable.They don’t have to try too hard. It’ll come to them. They should let it come to them. They should do the things that made them attractive to their teammates in the selection process.”
One player who was reported to not practice in a full capacity on Monday was Diontae Johnson. Coach Tomlin was asked if he anticipates Johnson being available for practice this week and on Sunday.
“We’ll let participation be our guide.You guys know how we do business in the regular season. We’ll have a practice participation report as prescribed by the NFL office and we’ll proceed from there.”
Coming off of a season where he was named NFL Defensive Player the Year, T.J. Watt has answered questions about his follow-up season in a manner that relates to the team and not him as an individual. Coach Tomlin was asked what Watt can do individually to make the team better.
“I agree with TJ.”
In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked how does a player at the outside linebacker position do more than he already has.
“Elite players make plays consistently, but they particularly make them in those waiting moments. That’s what he’s done since he’s been here. So, it’s reasonable to expect that to continue and it’s reasonable to expect that to continue at a more frequent rate as he works to hone his game and continually get better.”
Gunner Olszewski & Steven Sims
When the depth chart was released Monday, Gunner Olszewski was listed as the returner for both punts and kickoffs followed by Steven Sims. Coach Tomlin was asked what he can expect out of both players when it comes to the return game.
“Playmaking. Good field decision making with the potential for big plays. They’ve shown us that, or the makings of that throughout the developmental process and that’s going to be the standard of expectation.”
Kevin Dotson & Kendrick Green
Another position battle which was solidified with the depth chart was Kevin Dotson starting at left guard over Kendrick Green. Coach Tomlin was asked what he saw from Dotson to win the job and in his response he also mentioned Green.
“He played better than KG [Kendrick Green], and it’s as simple as that.”
Ahkello Witherspoon, Cam Sutton, & Levi Wallace
The Steelers are expected to rely on three cornerbacks in 2022 in Ahkello Witherspoon, Cam Sutton, and Levi Wallace. Coach Tomlin was asked what he has seen from his corners.
“I love their above-the-neck game. I love the fluidity of their communication. They’re engaged. I think that helps them grow as a collective. Those are the two position groups that the collective growth and development is significant, we talked about the offensive line and in the secondary. I like what I’ve seen from that group. I think it’s probably teed up because they’re all such good, vocal communicators, talking about Ahkello and Levi and Cam Sutton specifically.”
Arthur Maulet & Tre Norwood
With Levi Wallace not listed as a starter at cornerback, he is one of several players who will come in to play in sub packages in the secondary. Coach Tomlin was asked about how the play will be divided up, and in his response he are also mentioned Arthur Maulet and Tre Norwood.
“You guys know the third corner plays a lot of football in today’s game. It does. Specialization, sub package football, whether it’s Levi Wallace or Arthur Maulet or Tre Norwood, all the defensive backs in a helmet are going to have an opportunity to become components of what we do. Oftentimes that specialization occurs on possession downs and in situational play, and those are weighty moments.”
Myles Jack & Devin Bush
Although there was a competition between Devin Bush and Robert Spillane for one of the starting inside linebacker roles, Myles Jack has been a player who was penciled into the lineup from the beginning. Coach Tomlin was asked what Jack has brought to the room and the defense.
“He’s a linebacker. He’s a linebacker at all times,24 hours a day. I’ve enjoyed getting to know him. He’s highly competitive. He’s extremely critical of himself. He’s a good teammate. He loves football. He likes to laugh. It’s been a good get-to-know process with him and I’m excited about walking this journey with him.”
In a later question, coach Tomlin was asked what he saw out of Devin Bush‘s growth in camp this year and how he took to Myles Jack coming into the room and them working together.
“It’s been really good. Like the corners, I thought those two guys have done a really good job of establishing a rapport. Obviously, Myles Jack is a more veteran player, and it’s been cool to watch the nature of that big brother-little brother relationship. I’ve been excited about that, but they’ll get an opportunity to write the true essence of that story with how they play collectively as a tandem, and I’m excited about them.”
One of the players placed on the Reserve/Injured List last week was safety Damontae Kazee. Coach Tomlin was asked how he will fill the role Kazee might have played had he remained healthy.
“I don’t know that we viewed it in that way because we were still establishing roles. Although he did some nice things in the team development, I don’t know that we were at that stage of development where he had nailed down a role or position or division of labor.”
Another player who missed the entire 2022 preseason due to injury was Alex Highsmith. Coach Tomlin was asked if he expects Highsmith to be good to go on Sunday.
When the Steelers add new players to their roster after the final preseason game, it’s sometimes difficult for them to be acclimated enough to contribute right away. Coach Tomlin was asked if he thinks Malik Reed has enough time to adjust to play on Sunday.
“We’ll see about the new guys. Their ability to execute and have detail in their play throughout the course of the week will determine whether or not they have roles or the significance of those roles.”
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