Steelers HC Mike Tomlin conference call (11.12.19)

Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin:

On the impact of Steelers RB James Conner’s return:

“We have not practiced yet so I have not seen him move around and those things. I think it is going to get revealed to us as we get closer to game time.”


On the most important factor to the Steelers turning around the season:

“I just think that some of our inexperienced players are gaining experience. They are gaining experience in terms of not only playing but making necessary plays that produce victories. In particular in some of the offensive skill areas, some of our wide receivers have grown up over the course of this journey. We have had some instability in terms of running back availability that has allowed some young guys to gain experience and grow up. We have acquired (Steelers TE) Nick Vannett along the way so we have had some change of guard at the tight end position. I think really it has kind of been about finding traction in terms of roles in new people. (Steelers S) Minkah (Fitzpatrick) on defense; (Steelers LB) Devin Bush on defense; (Steelers LB) Mark Barron on defense, inside linebackers and safety positions, central communication positions, I just think over time we are gaining continuity and communication skills that are only born out of working and working together over an extended period of time.”


On if there is a difference when Conner is in the Steelers backfield:

“Yeah, that is obvious. He is a Pro Bowl caliber runner and the other guys are not. The other guys are gaining experience and finding their niche as professional ball carriers. We know what James is capable of.”


On if the Fitzpatrick trade has been everything he imagined it could be:

“I think it is still in progress. It is difficult to get on a moving train. I tip my cap to Minkah in terms of doing so, but I just think he is going to get more and more comfortable with each passing week in terms of not only gaining an understanding about the detail of what we are asking him to do but also how it fits into the big picture and he can really start focusing on some of the things that he is looking at from an opponent perspective. I just think he is getting increasingly more comfortable with each passing week, and I think that is why you see the uptick in his production and thus ours.”


On if Fitzpatrick’s nose for the ball is primarily instincts, coaching or a combination:

“This guy made plays probably at every level of football he has ever played. I know I was really impressed with his Alabama tape. He was taken extremely high in the draft. We traded a first rounder for him. I do not think it is an unknown thing about his nose for the ball or his general awareness of football abilities.”


On RB Kareem Hunt’s impact on the Browns offense:

“I think [the Browns coaching staff] are better equipped to answer that than I am. I have a lot of tape of (RB) Nick Chubb to be concerned about. I have a lot of respect for Hunt in what he has been able to over the course of his career. We have had some awesome battles against him, but we better get focused on Nick Chubb and what he does as an essential ball carrier for those guys. What he has done this year has been really impressive.”


On if Hunt blocking for Chubb makes Chubb even better:

“I think Nick has been pretty good by himself.”


On how much more dangerous the Browns are when using a two-RB set:

“I do not have the answer to that or control over that. We have to play the things that we have seen. They have big time weapons. Obviously, the two-back set is something that they did a week ago with a great deal of success, but they were doing that earlier in the year with (former Browns and Texans RB) Duke Johnson (Jr.) with some success. They are very multiple. I think that is one of the things that is challenging about them. They have players at every position. Our hands are going to be full on Thursday night.”


On how Steelers CB Joe Haden has been playing:

“He has been really solid. He has been really solid since Day 1. Joe is a big time professional, a competitor, a good example for young guys and a guy that you like having on your side inside stadiums.”


On the Steelers culture and how that has helped the team bounce back from a slow start to the season, particularly given QB Ben Roethlisberger’s injury:

“Guys just have not blinked. There is going to be misery at times in the course of the journey that is a season. Just like life, you have to smile in the face of adversity and be ready for the next challenge. That is regardless the outcome, win or lose because in this game, the next Sunday is coming. We just have a big time respect for that. We try to show that respect with our actions and our focus, and let the chips fall where they may.”


On how Steelers QB Mason Rudolph has stepped up in the starting QB role:

“I think he is still growing week in and week out. I like what I have seen thus far, but I think it is reasonable to expect him to continue to grow and getting the comfort that is associated with the experience of playing. From inside a helmet, he is a big time prep guy, but prep is one thing and playing is another. I think as he continues to play, he is going to get more comfortable and reap the benefits of his preparation approach. Hopefully, that helps him and us.”


On if he is preparing Rudolph for a potential playoff-type atmosphere on Thursday night:

“He has been in Pittsburgh long enough to know that. I do not have to tell him.”


On if Steelers LB T.J. Watt can improve despite his high level of production:

“I think most certainly he can. T.J. is still a very young guy with three years of experience. I know that his approach to work is improving and he is finding ways to get better from a preparation standpoint and sharing that with other young players. It is reasonable to expect his play to continue to do so.”


On QB Baker Mayfield this season:

“He is a big time playmaker and competitor. I have a lot of respect for him. He is utilizing all those weapons the way he is spreading the ball around to those guys, particularly the the two LSU wide outs (Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry). He had some tight ends in there and really a kind of revolving doors at times at that position, and he is finding ways to utilize those guys and their differing talents. He is a special player.”


On the dog fight race of the AFC North this year:

“I really do not have a feel for it as of yet. We have just been focused on the challenges that we have week in and week out. We have just played two division games. I know you guys have just played one. I think it is really going to shape up over the second half of the season in a big way for the guys in the (AFC) North.”


On playing the Browns twice in 17 days:

“I am just focused on this one. It has been a short week. Not a lot of room for big picture analysis. We have just been trying to get ready for today’s practice.”


On his opinion of playing games on Thursday night following a short week:

“I do not have an opinion nor do I care. I am not involved in the making of the schedule. We will be there.”


On the Steelers’ high volume of takeaways and it being a coaching point of emphasis:

“It goes beyond a point of emphasis. Guys are trying to live it out day to day in their prep and establishing the habits and muscle memory that allows them to do it in game. The credit goes to those guys not only from a prep standpoint but from a production standpoint when given the opportunity in stadium.”


On if he almost forgets that Steelers FB Roosevelt Nix used to be a defensive player:

“No, he tells us these stories all the time. He will let you look at YouTube videos if you give him a minute.”


# # #