Steelers Study Notes, 9/15/21: Tomlin’s Press Conference, Power Rankings, and Sam Howell?

By Jeremy Hritz

It’s the midpoint of the week, and the Steelers begin practicing for their upcoming game against the Las Vegas Raiders. On Tuesday, Mike Tomlin had an opportunity to speak to the media in his weekly press conference to preview the game and to share some of his thoughts on the win over the Buffalo Bills, so I’ll highlight some of his key points, in addition to some other nuggets, here today in my Steelers Study Notes for this Wednesday, September 15th.

  • Tomlin was asked about the nickel cornerback position and what the team’s approach would be after utilizing several players in that spot on Sunday, to which he responded that the plan would continually evolve. The reason for so much variety against the Bills was to make it difficult on Josh Allen.
  • Per the head coach, the plan is for the team to rotate TJ Watt, Melvin Ingram, and Alex Highsmith every game, but that there is no “snap count.” He also shared that it is possible that there could be a defensive package that puts all three on the field at once.
  • While the offensive line did not play well on Sunday, Tomlin was not critical of the unit, saying that the he loved the “spirit…. demeanor…. [and] physicality.” All intangibles, but the tangible qualities of actually pushing the defensive back to create running lanes, was not consistently observable. Tomlin did acknowledge the work this unit still has to do: “The quality of our work has to get better.” And it will. As I have said, this is a young group, new to working with each other, that will better in week 4/5 than it currently is.
  • Tomlin praised Raiders tight end Darren Waller who caught 10 passes for 105 yards Monday night against the Ravens. He said, “This guy is a dynamic, big athlete…. He’s more similar to Claypool…”. No doubt, a strategic approach to covering Waller is in development, and will require Devin Bush and Joe Schobert to have big days on Sunday.
  • Not that it really means anything in terms of the starters, but Tomlin did indicate that Robert Spillane will be ready to go Sunday afternoon.
  • I’m not a fan of those football prognosticators who were so down on the Steelers in the preseason now suddenly jolting them up in their NFL Power Rankings. Sure, it was a big win, but this team cannot afford to get ahead of themselves. While I don’t think they will, I’d just like to see some cautious optimism, as this is still a work in progress.
  • Kevin Colbert was at a North Carolina Tar Heels football practice on Tuesday, sparking conversations that he was there to watch quarterback Sam Howell, a player whom the Steelers could possibly be interested in for the 2022 draft. Howell is only a junior and will more than likely be a super-high pick, but it is good to see Colbert putting in that work to scout future signal callers for the black and gold.
  • Early game prediction from Ray Fittipaldo from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Steelers 24, Raiders 23. Fittipaldo remarked, “Steelers in a close game.”
  • While I was expecting the running game to breakout last week, it didn’t happen. But it is encouraging that the Raiders are traveling to Heinz Field on a short week after playing an emotional, overtime game, and that they gave up 189 yards rushing. If ever there was a week to get Najee Harris going, this is it.
  • Episode #100 of the Study Session is tomorrow, so be sure to give it a listen! A celebratory moment for The Steel Study indeed! Thank you for being a supporter of the site!

That is all for this Wednesday! Make it a great day!

  • Jeremy

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