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Mike Tomlin needs to stop treating his rookies like the Steelers have a stacked roster

Mike Tomlin addressed the media during his weekly press conference on Tuesday and, of course, gave updates on who will be starting at left tackle and at one of the cornerback spots against the Rams this Sunday in Los Angeles.

And when I say “gave updates,” Tomlin gave us vague answers riddled with isms and left everything open to interpretation; that is exactly what the media and fans have been doing in the days since the presser.

What have folks determined after listening to Tomlin’s non-answers regarding his starting left tackle and one of his starting cornerbacks: Dan Moore Jr. will probably return to the top of the depth chart following an injury that forced him to miss the Ravens game. Also, rookie Joey Porter Jr. will continue to have limited snaps at outside corner–but probably increased limited snaps–even though he’s looked starter-capable during the scarce playing time he’s seen so far.

Maddening, no? I mean, why not just come right out and tell us whether or not Porter Jr. and, oh yes, left tackle Broderick Jones have been elevated to the top of the depth chart? That is where they’re going to wind up sooner or later. In fact, based on the performances of the players who have blocked their ascension to the top of the depth chart through five weeks of the 2023 regular season–Patrick Peterson, Levi Wallace and Moore Jr.–Porter and Jones should have been starting from Week 1.

Porter, the prospect who was projected to go in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft and one who the Steelers were lucky enough to select with the first pick of the second round, graded out higher than any other corner in Week 5–at least according to Pro Football Focus. PFF’s grades are often bizarre, but if you need more tangible evidence, go to YouTube and find the highlight of the interception Porter made in the end zone late in Pittsburgh’s 17-10 win over the Ravens at Acrisure Stadium right before the bye. What’s that? You don’t need to go to YouTube because you actually saw it live? Me too.

Did you notice Jones’s play when he filled in for Moore in Week 5? You didn’t? Me either. Maybe that’s because Jones played magnificently, at least according to PFF and every other such offensive line expert who did notice Jones as he consistently blocked the men who were trying to harm Kenny Pickett.

In case you forgot, Jones is the rookie whom the Steelers actually traded up to select in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Like Porter, Jones was projected to go in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft and actually did go in the first round.

The Steelers have two first-round caliber rookies on their roster, and they’ve done nothing but slow-play their progress up the depth chart through five games. Why?

What kind of team does Tomlin think he’s in charge of, one with a stacked roster? Forgive me for this, Coach, but  LMFAO!

Sorry, but these aren’t your Killer B’s era Steelers. I believe that era first gave us the “Moving train” Tomlinism. In case you need a refresher, Tomlin often used that back then to describe the difficulties rookies and newcomers were going to experience when trying to get on board with what the Steelers, perennial contenders in the AFC at that time, were doing.

Tomlin still uses the moving train ism, but he need not for his current squad. In fact, the Steelers haven’t been a fast-moving train for many years. What they’ve been since 2018 is a perennial eight or nine-win team. Trains of that caliber are often moving slowly enough for a rookie to hop on without hurting anyone–including himself and other passengers.

The Steelers aren’t in a position to be bringing rookies along slowly, especially if the rookies in question appear to be the best players at their respective positions.

Who are the Steelers afraid of hurting, Jones and Porter? I suppose you could hinder a rookie’s progress if you bring him along too fast, but Jones and Porter seem like they can handle the pressure–the moment doesn’t appear to be too big for them, if you will.

Are the Steelers afraid of hurting the egos of Peterson, Wallace and/or Moore Jr.?

Who really cares? I know I don’t care. Tomlin shouldn’t care, either.

The Steelers have been mediocre for going on five years, and when it comes to how they treat their rookies–in this case, their top two rookies from the most recent draft–they need to stop acting like something they’re not: An AFC contender with a stacked roster.


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