The Steelers wrapped up their bye week practices on Thursday and Coach Mike Tomlin was pleased with what was accomplished, including getting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back in sync with the offense.
"He looked sharp. He looked good," said Tomlin. "No question that he has taken advantage of his time away from us. He has utilized it and continued to prepare himself. What he has done with that time ultimately is going to measure in how he performs. He understands that, we understand that and we will push forward to next week with that understanding."
Tomlin did say that the Roethlisberger getting back into action is still a work in progress, and the full results won't be seen until the team takes the field against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 17.
"I think we are in the midst of it," said Tomlin. "Practicing is one thing and playing is another. So we will see how that goes."
The extra practices also allowed Tomlin to give some of the younger players extra work, something that will come in handy as the season rolls on.
"The younger guys, guys who are still in need of growth and development as professionals were provided work opportunities," said Tomlin. "Guys like Keenan Lewis and Crezdon Butler, pitted against Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders, those are some of the highlights. But we have a lot of young guys and like I mentioned to our team this week, the bye is coming in early portion of the season. It is important that we took advantage of it in the proper manner and probably address it differently had this bye occurred from a month from now."
Practices were handled in a similar fashion as they are during mini-camp, with just working on their own game as opposed to preparing for the Browns.
"It was primarily Steelers vs. Steelers," said Tomlin. "We didn't want to have anybody working off of cards and things of that nature. We wanted to use our language, our assignments, and the details of our assignments so guys can grow and we can evaluate them.
"It's very similar in structure (to mini-camp) in terms of not only what we did from a competitive standpoint but in the utilization of individual time, the skill development things that guys do regarding positions prior to the competition."
And for the coaches, with practices ending early and no meetings afterwards, it allowed them time to work on some extra things.
"We do the normal things that you do during the bye week in terms of self-scouting, evaluation, making sure that you are utilizing personal properly, that you do things that play to your strength and do things that minimize your weaknesses," said Tomlin.
While many of the players will get away from football for the weekend, it will still be in the forefront for Tomlin.
"I don't get away from it. I don't desire to," said Tomlin. "I love my job and I enjoy the challenges that it presents. I've got some husband and father duties that come with the bye weekend, but given the opportunity I am going to enjoy doing what I enjoy doing, which is football. I will be watching some football just like everyone else and probably working a little bit in terms of preparing for next weekend."
The bye week was a time to heal for several players, including nose tackle Chris Hoke and guard Trai Essex.
"We will play it by ear," said Tomlin of their availability for the Browns game. "I think everyone and those two guys specifically have a chance to play next weekend. Their level of participation in the week leading up will be determined based on how they feel. Based on the information I have right now, both guys have a chance to play next weekend."