As the 2023 Pittsburgh Steelers assembled together at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Tuesday for the first “mandatory” session, we were also graced with a media session from head coach Mike Tomlin. Since he was asked about a number of players following the team’s activities, a “players mentioned” article is able to make a brief appearance before the lull in football activities kicks in for several weeks. Remember these are players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.
Joey Porter Jr. & Cory Trice Jr.
The Steelers double-dipped at the cornerback position in the 2023 NFL draft and both players have been turning heads during OTAs. Coach Tomlin was asked what he likes about his young defensive backs and what kind of advantage they have being bigger.
“I think that story is going to be told with how they play. Length is an asset if you’re clean, so they’ve got to be penalty free.You know, they got to know which way they’re going. Sometimes when you’re short, your cog(nizance) is excellent and when you’re out of place you make up things faster, when you’re long you don’t. And so, they’re very much writing their story about what they’re capable of being. I like their attentiveness. I like the attributes that they bring, but it’s premature to kind of paint a picture of where they are.”
One player who is at minicamp and hoping to get a new contract is outside linebacker Alex Highsmith. Coach Tomlin was asked what kind of leadership Highsmith has been showing.
“You know, he’s an elite Robin. You know, as we say, we like to challenge him in that way. He’s growing. He’s making a name for himself in this thing. He seeks perfection. His maturation has been one that we anticipate and expect to be quite honest with you. We put quality people in this program,and they work within, and they just simply get better,and their tape does as well and he’s an example of that.”
T.J. Watt & Ryan McCollum
Despite being mandatory minicamp, there were a few players who were absent. Coach Tomlin was asked about if everyone was in attendance who was supposed to be there and in his response he mentioned T.J. Watt and Ryan McCollum.
“Yeah, everyone’s here. Everyone was here that I anticipated being here. I gave a couple of guys an excused absence for a variety of reasons. T.J. wasn’t here. Ryan McCollum wasn’t here. I’m sure you guys missed T.J. I’m sure none of you missed Ryan McCollum.”
Elandon Roberts & Patrick Peterson
The Steelers added a lot of players on defense during the 2023 offseason who are potential starters. Coach Tomlin was asked about different defenders coming from different places and how to mesh what they already know with what the Steelers are trying to teach them. In his response, Coach Tomlin mentioned Elandon Roberts and Patrick Peterson.
“A lot of the new pieces are veteran players. And so, it’s not new learning. It’s just simply what do we call it? A guy like E Roberts for example, a guy like Pat Peterson man, they’ve seen all that football has to offer from a schematic standpoint, really is just learning the language. And so, although they might be new to us, it’s not ground zero in terms of some of the things that we’re asking them to do.”
In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked about his appreciation for Peterson and if he has seen him interact with the rookie cornerbacks and other young players on the roster.
“I just think that comes with being him. That’s who he is. That’s why we’re attracted to him. I don’t know if that’s really significant. He’s a good teammate. He’s a really good player. He’s got experience. He shares those things with younger guys.”
The Steelers only have one player remaining at inside linebacker from the 2022 roster. Coach Tomlin was asked about where he’s seen the most growth in Mark Robinson.
“I’m not looking for growth at this time of year. It’s just teaching and learning, and he’s gotten better in that regard, and he’s positioning himself to compete for work and show that growth once we get to training camp.”
Being the Steelers first-round draft pick from 2023, there will be a lot of focus on tackle Broderick Jones. Coach Tomlin was asked how much learning Jones has done from the time he got into the building until now.
“Like all rookies’ man, they start at ground zero and every day they come,and they get better. And so, you know, there’s going to be a lot of learning, there’s going to be some mistakes. It’s ground zero for those guys.”
Although he’s no longer the Steelers most recent first-round draft pick, Kenny Pickett is still the Steelers quarterback and will often be the topic of discussion. Coach Tomlin was asked what he has seen from Pickett in their football-like activities.
“All the things that come with being him and we really don’t have enough time in this setting to, to adequately describe it. Just know that he’s working daily. He’s diligent in terms of his approach. I like where he is.”
Mike Tomlin’s interview can be seen here: