Despite a heavy heart due to the Damar Hamlin situation, head coach Mike Tomlin was back at the podium to speak ahead of Week 18. With a few 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.
Rookie DeMarvin Leal has filled a lot of roles for the Steelers defense in his first season. Coach Tomlin was asked what it is with Leal’s athleticism that allows him to be moved around like he was on Sunday night.
“He’s one of those guys, man. Elite defensive lineman – and I almost pause before I say that because I don’t want to refer to him as elite – are usually power players who are uniquely athletic, or they’re simply oversized athletes. They have hand-eye coordination of smaller people, they play catch, they punt balls with DBs and so forth. Leal is that type of guy that kind of falls into that latter category. He doesn’t realize that he’s a lineman. You watch him on the practice field before practice begins, you know, he’s jacking around with the DBs, he’s playing catch, he wants to display his hand-eye coordination and things of that nature. Within the practice setting, he runs more and longer and harder and faster than most D-linemen, his pursuit of the ball and things of that nature, he likes to run. Those are just some of the physical things that he has brought. We’re working to hone and develop and shape into a game that kind of makes him an attractive young prospect to include sometimes in packages and in game planning.”
Najee Harris & Jaylen Warren
The Steelers two-headed monster at running back of Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren accounted for over 180 rushing yards on Sunday night. Coach Tomlin was asked how he knows it’s time to give Harris a break and get Warren into the game.
“I think it’s continual, it’s something that’s fluid. It’s not only a plan, but it’s also based on what transpires in game. Long runs usually produce fatigue, etcetera. There’s a hardcore plan, but we’ve got to be open to adapting and adjusting that plan based on what it is we see in game.”
After only seeing seven defensive snaps before Sunday night, seventh-round draft pick Mark Robinson got the start at linebacker against the Ravens. Coach Tomlin was asked what made him comfortable with Robinson to put him in significant situations.
“Who said that I was comfortable? He’s a guy that likes physical confrontation. That’s the one component of his game that’s never been in question. Growth and development, all other areas due to youth and lack of experience is. So, he’s grown over the course of the season, and we’ve challenged him to get comfortable with professional football, and not only professional football, but we’re talking about a guy who hadn’t played a lot of linebacker. A guy who played running back in college; you guys know his story. There’s a lot of growth that needs to transpire there in terms of the nuances of the position and a lot of the things that come with the position. To be blunt, we were stepping into a game that was going to challenge him in a specific area and that specific area was in line with his skill set. And so, we let him play.”
For the second-straight game, rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett led the offense to a last-minute touchdown to win the game. Coach Tomlin was asked about the decreased number of interceptions since the bye week that Pickett has thrown.
“I think it’s reasonable to expect a sharp, hardworking, talented guy to get better with each exposure and particularly to do so rapidly at the initial stages of gaining experience.”
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