This past Thursday Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin ‘huddled up’ with Steelers fans via the Steelers Nation Unite Huddle, taking questions from fans around the country about everything from the status of players who are recovering from injury to how he views the depth chart at select positions.
Tomlin kicked things off by addressing the challenges of conducting a virtual minicamp.
“We face a lot of challenges … my mentality, and the group mentality is going to be there are challenges that everyone faces,” said Tomlin. “From that standpoint it’s going to be fair and the playing field is going to be level. We have to be light on our feet…. The entire National Football League [is] going through it and I just think if we perform relatively better than others we put ourselves in position to be the team at the end of the journey….”
As for what he envisions for the forthcoming season, Tomlin said: “It’s going to look different for us this year logistically in a lot of ways, I am sure. That could be said for all of us. We are just ready to do it better than those we compete against.”
Ben Roethlisberger’s Recovery From Elbow Surgery
Tomlin was also asked for an update on Ben Roethlisberger.
“He is doing great thus far. He is in great physical condition,” Tomlin said, trying to put to bed the notion that Roethlisberger’s physical condition is an issue. “Rehabilitation in regard to the injury itself is going well. I hear nothing but positive reports from that standpoint. There have been no bumps in the road. The fact that the injury and subsequent surgery happened so early in the season in 2019 is probably an asset to him and to us as we push into 2020. I think everybody is comfortable with where things are. We’re excited about him and what he is going to do for us this year.”
Stephon Tuitt’s Recovery From a Torn Pectoral Muscle
Similarly, there was a question about Stephon Tuitt’s progress in terms of recovering from a torn pectoral muscle, suffered in the team’s win over the Los Angeles Chargers last October.
“Stephon is doing really well,” Tomlin said. “Like I mentioned with Ben … his injury occurred at the early portion of the season. As miserable as it made him and us in 2019, it kind of bodes well for readiness in 2020. We expect Stephon to be ready to go. We are excited to have him and his talents back.”
On the Depth Chart at Quarterback
Tomlin also weighed in on the depth chart at quarterback. Naturally, the future of the Steelers’ QB position is an increasingly hot topic.
“We like to sort those things out through competition,” Tomlin said. “As we are positioned today, Mason Rudolph is our backup quarterback…. [Devlin] Hodges played some last year because of obvious circumstances. We were able to pick up Paxton Lynch, who is a former first-rounder, in the midst of the journey last year. We have some candidates. Mason Rudolph had an opportunity to gain some experience last year. We expect him to be better. He expects to be better. We are comfortable with the mix we have right now, not that we are opposed to getting better at any position as we proceed if it makes sense to us.”
Chase Claypool’s Place on the Depth Chart
Finally, Tomlin also addressed rookie WR Chase Claypool’s perceived place in the wide receiver pecking order, after a fan surmised that Claypool would be fourth on the depth chart behind JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and James Washington.
“I am not going to thoughtfully place him behind anybody,” Tomlin said. “He might come in and carve out a significant role for himself. That is just the mentality I try to convey all of the time with everyone. I want Chase to know there aren’t any glass ceilings in terms of what he can do and be for us, not only this year but over the course of his career. He’ll be given the opportunity to let his talents show. The other guys mentioned are talented people as well, thus the competition. Competition makes us all better as a whole and puts us in position to be a good unit and a good team. [Claypool] has talent, no question. I like his play demeanor. He is a sharp young man. I see no reason why he can’t put himself in the mix, and quite frankly we expect him to.”
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New Hobbies During Quarantine?
Last but not least, Tomlin was asked whether he had developed any new hobbies during quarantine.
“I am binge watching Netflix and usually that is not my style,” Tomlin quipped. “I am on ‘Joe Exotic’ like everybody else.”