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9 players mentioned by Mike Tomlin in Tuesday’s press conference

The 2023 regular season is underway. The Steelers showed some improvements on the road in Week 3, but the key is to get better each week regardless of the outcome of the game. As is typically the case, head coach Mike Tomlin took to the podium on Tuesday to address in the media for Tomlin Tuesday. With plenty of questions asked by those in attendance, it is once again time for a players mentioned article. Remember these are players where a specific question was asked during the Q&A period.

With so many players, I’ll stick to just the questions.


Kenny Pickett

Coach Tomlin was asked what it does for the offense and for Kenny Pickett when he is rolling like he was on Sunday night.

“You know, that’s what we desire to do anyway. Sometimes there’s less of it when we’re not gaining enough fluidity to put snaps together. You know, and that’s some of the diversity I think that gets lost sometimes when you’re not converting third downs or you’re not moving the ball. Sometimes you guys ask about snap distribution for runners. For example, “hey, can we see more of 30.” Well, not if we have 15 snaps in the first five possessions because we’re not converting third downs. It’s the same thing with play concept variation. The more success you have, the more you’re controlling the game scenarios, the more you’re on schedule, the more possession downs you win, the more concept diversity you have, and you see pocket movement and play action and misdirection passes and screen game and quick game and all the things that really do a good job of keeping defenses off balance. And so, I know there were some questions about pocket movement and an increased usage there, but it’s really just about more snaps in all of those discussions, whether it’s concept variation or player usage.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if that allows the Steelers to get more into the playbook.

“Exactly.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked what he saw from Kenny Pickett this week compared to the previous two games after watching the film.

“General growth. Again, like I routinely talk about. We’re putting plans together better, presenting them better, he’s probably absorbing them better with more understanding and thorough understanding and thus more fluidity and decision making and more detail and performance whether it’s accuracy or what have you. It’s never exclusively him. Although I know the job, you know garners a certain amount of attention. We’re working on improving as a collective, whether it’s offense, or defense or special teams.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked how much latitude Kenny Pickett has to make a change in the play specifically when teams are putting five down linemen at the front of the defense.

“You know, it depends on week to week. You know, why would we have Kenny do it when we know there’s five down linemen in the game. So, it’s not a player decision, It’s a coaching decision. You see the defensive personnel that comes onto the field as you’re making calls. And so, different plans week to week about whether we choose to run pass check or run, run check or just to run it, to be quite honest with you. But I promise you it’s not haphazard. There’s always an agenda there.”

In a later question, Coach Tomlin was asked how he is seen the relationship and chemistry grow between Pickett an offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

“In a very natural way. Whether it’s week in and week out this season, or whether it’s the totality of the two years that Kenny (Pickett) has been here.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was ask if there has been any change in how Canada interacts or works with Pickett.

“No.”


Jaylen Warren

Coach Tomlin was asked what he has seen from Jaylen Warren the first three weeks, particularly when it comes to the block he had on the Steelers 72-yard touchdown.

“That’s really consistent with what he’s done since he’s been here. His blitz pickup has always been exciting and exceptional. Those of you that are in team development at training camp and backs on backers. His very first backs on backers drill that was on display a year ago. And so, that’s just really consistent with what he has been.”


Najee Harris

After Najee Harris talked after the game about the Steelers simplifying the run game, Coach Tomlin was asked what is the endgame between potentially expanding the playbook and having a more direct package for running the football.

“It’s a delicate balance. And sometimes you can say both things and be accurate. You might want to tight short yardage menu so you can block the unforeseen. You might want to be diverse in first and 10. And so, don’t read too much into it sometimes when you hear conflicting statements like that. There’s a lot of layers to these discussions to be quite honest with you. I don’t know what Naj was referring to when he made that statement. But I’m just acknowledging that all of these discussions are complex.”


Keeanu Benton & Calvin Austin

Coach Tomlin was asked about what Keenau Benton has been able to do to accelerate his growth over the last few weeks, and in his response he brought up Calvin Austin who is another player seeing more playing time because of other injuries.

“It’s not what he has done, sometimes it’s just what’s happening around him. The lack of Cam Heyward has created more opportunity. With that opportunity he’s gaining experience and getting better. And so, it’s reasonable to expect him to get better with reps and it’s reasonable to expect him to have that mentality, to see one man’s misfortune as an opportunity for growth and development and playmaking and another. And that’s what team is about. You know, Diontae (Johnson) is missing some work right now. Boy, it is a great opportunity for a guy like Calvin Austin to show his capabilities and to show what he looks like as an every-down receiver as opposed to maybe a supplementary one. And so, you know, that’s what team is about. We try to educate ourselves to that fact in this game, particularly at the early portions of the season, when we deal with unfortunate circumstances. Obviously, at heart aches for those that missed time, but we have a certain level of excitement about the opportunity and what it means for development and the careers of those who get an opportunity to ascend.”


Joey Porter Jr. & Levi Wallace

Coach Tomlin was asked how Joey Porter did with the extended snaps he got when Levi Wallace was hurt during the game.

“It’s probably less about Levi’s injury and more about us being in more advantageous down and distant circumstances too. I think Joey played seven snaps in week one, for example, because San Francisco didn’t have a lot of third downs. They were moving it pretty good and when they were in third down, it was third and two and third and three, things of that nature. And so, Joey’s getting better every week. His process is getting better every week. And so, his floor is getting better in terms of his in-stadium play. Sometimes that process is aided and accelerated by guys going down as you mentioned. But his uptick in participation probably got to do more with more advantageous third down situations than Levi’s injury. I don’t know that Levi missed that many reps to be quite honest with you.”


Pat Freiermuth

Coach Tomlin was asked about Pat Freiermuth being involved in the offense more this week than the previous two weeks and if it’s a result of the player or the offensive success opening things up.

“Success breeds success. More snaps, more people, more concepts, same discussion that we’ve been having. Yes.”


T.J. Watt

Coach Tomlin was asked about how much of T.J. Watt’s success comes from how he watches tape.

“There’s a significant difference based on football intellect and experience. You know, some people watch tape, some people study tape. And there’s a difference. However you describe the spectrum, T.J. is on the extreme end of it from a preparedness standpoint. And that’s one of the reasons why you get the production that you get from him beyond his freakish talent.”

In a follow-up question, Coach Tomlin was asked if Watt was always like that.

“He was always like that in mentality. I think the level of productivity from that endeavor grows with his experience, it gets more pointed, he wastes less time. I could just tell by the dialogue that he and I have and how it has matured over the years that his process is being honed to a fine edge.”


Mike Tomlin’s complete press conference can be seen here:

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