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Bye Week Blog: A recap of the news

Wednesday, November 2

A whirlwind for Jackson: It took longer than he anticipated, but cornerback William Jackson III is now with the team he thought he would be right out of college.

Jackson, who was acquired by the Steelers via a trade on Tuesday with the Washington Commanders, expected the Steelers to be the team that would draft him coming out of the University of Houston.

"Really excited about acquiring Will Jackson," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "Highly familiar with Will, not only from the AFC North, but just pre-draft when he came out. He was a guy that we had a lot of interest in. We liked his skill set. He's got really good top end speed. He's an experienced guy, he's experienced in the NFL, also experienced in the North. Obviously, he has to learn what to do, but we're excited about his inclusion and will let his participation and how quickly he learns be our guide maybe in terms of what his role might be particularly in the short term."

While the Steelers had an interest in him before the draft, as fate would have it the Cincinnati Bengals selected him one spot ahead of the Steelers in the first-round of the 2016 NFL Draft, a place he spent four seasons before spending the last two with the Commanders.

Now in his seventh season, he is where he expected all along.

"Definitely crazy," said Jackson on Wednesday following his first practice in the black and gold. "Pittsburgh is a great organization to play for. I played them for four years, twice a year. So, it's cool. It's really cool to be able to play with these guys."

Jackson said he had a pre-draft meeting with Coach Mike Tomlin in 2016, one that led him to believe the Steelers had a strong interest.

"I sat down with Mike T and we were talking," said Jackson. "Things happen in the draft."

Jackson remembers the day of the draft, being in Houston with family and Cincinnati was on the clock, with the Steelers next. To his surprise, the Bengals, who he only met with once late in the process, called.

"It was crazy," said Jackson. "It is what it is. Either way I was blessed to actually even go first round. You dream about that as a kid. I just took it all in. Just move forward."

That moving forward is something that is happening again for Jackson, who drove three hours from Washington to Pittsburgh on Tuesday night to be ready to practice on Wednesday in an effort to start getting acclimated to the system.

"It's just the first day," said Jackson. "I am trying to learn the ins and outs of the defense. Learning my leverage, where I need to go. I'm still learning. It's my first day. I'll just get my feet wet today, hopefully come out in the next couple of weeks and be in there.

"I'm just coming in to be the best they want me to be, whatever that may be. I just got here. It was a whirlwind. Everything happened fast. I didn't get to talk to the coaches good, so it is just getting comfortable with the guys and know what I got to do.

"I just want to get in and get comfortable and know exactly what I got to do and know the ins and outs of the defense."

The Steelers prepare for the Week 10 matchup against the New Orleans Saints

Explaining the moves: The Steelers wrapped up their on-field week for the bye, but the work hasn't stopped for the coaching staff.

While the players have a mandatory four-day weekend, work is still going on as the team is looking for a way to turn things around in the second half of the season.

"We had a couple of days of fundamental work in all three phases," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "Been doing some things behind the scenes in terms of the evaluation of our schematics and the quality of our work. And hopefully we take the lessons learned.

"And we still as a staff, even though the field work is done, we still have some more work days ahead of us in the bye week. We'll continue to gather that information and let that information be a component of our next plan and the subsequent plans to follow. Obviously, the most important one is the next one. We'll take a step away and enjoy the weekend and then get focused on our next opportunity as we come out of the weekend.

"That's the messaging that we left with the guys. It's good to get away. It's good to unwind, but we ask these guys to be intentional about their plans and to be safe. That's just life and 2022. And then we come back here on Monday and start with a good bonus day here toward New Orleans prep."

That preparation will look a little different on both sides of the ball as the Steelers traded receiver Chase Claypool and acquired cornerback William Jackson III prior to the trade deadline on Tuesday.

They were moves that were made with a purpose, and ones that Tomlin said he felt comfortable with because of the makeup of the roster. He also said it gives more opportunity for guys like Steven Sims, Miles Boykin and Gunner Olszewski.

"With the Chase deal, it was about draft capital and value for us," said Tomlin. "Chicago Bears second round pick is a pick that we value and are excited about what that brings us. But it's more than just being excited about capital. We got some games left to play and we feel really comfortable with the depth that we have at Chase's position, the wide receiver position and more specifically, we're really comfortable with our playmaking ability inside. He's made the majority of his plays to this point in the season inside. Not only at the wide out position, but that's the space that we're really comfortable with Pat Freiermuth as well being a significant component of our attack on the interior portions of the field. So that depth, coupled with Pat's presence and development is what allowed us to feel comfortable in terms of moving him and acquiring that draft capital."

Tomlin also was excited to add Jackson, a player the Steelers looked at prior to the 2016 NFL Draft.

"Really excited about acquiring Will Jackson," said Tomlin. "Highly familiar with Will, not only from the AFC North, but just pre-draft when he came out. He was a guy that we had a lot of interest in. We liked his skill set. He's got really good top end speed. He's an experienced guy, he's experienced in the NFL, also experienced in the North. Obviously, he has to learn what to do, but we're excited about his inclusion and will let his participation and how quickly he learns be our guide maybe in terms of what his role might be particularly in the short term."

Working on fundamentals: The Steelers are using their bye week to dig deeper into issues that have plagued them during the first half of the season, a time to reflect so they can turn things around when they come back against the New Orleans Saints in Week 10.

"It's time for us to come together, diagnose what we can do better," said safety Terrell Edmunds. "That's what we did. We had a nice practice, really competing. Making plays on those deep balls. We had refs out there this week. Making sure our communication is on point. Limit our penalties. We haven't been playing a fundamental game as of late so now we have to get right."

The fundamentals are things that are frustrating for the players, knowing there are little things that can make a difference in every game.

"I definitely think we are struggling with fundamentals," said Edmunds. "We just have to be real with ourselves. We have some stuff we need to work on. Some stuff we have to do. That is why we are going to attack the week early this week.

"We know we can turn things around. We are frustrated. We have to go out there and play football now. That's how we are working. It's just being real with ourselves. We know people have to go out there and do their job. Focus on your assignment."

Tuesday, November 1

A key conversation: It's a topic that has been discussed time and time again in the Steelers locker room as of late.


And on Tuesday, it was a topic of conversation in the team's receiver's room, where each player discussed what they need to do individually and as a group to get the offense on the right track.

"I said be better at the details and assignments," said Diontae Johnson. "We are putting little mistakes on film. We want to get that off of film. Once we do that, we can get back to doing what we do, which is making plays and stuff, trying to get the offense going. Trying to get a rhythm. That was it. The details and assignments. That is what we have been struggling with and I feel like we can get better in that area.

"As a unit collectively, we have to continue to hold each other accountable. Stay on one another. If we see each other slipping, kind of pick them up and be there for them and get them back on track."

That conversation happened prior to the team trading receiver Chase Claypool to the Chicago Bears for a second-round draft pick in 2023, but it still has the same meaning. It was a key for the players to talk to each other and have a conversation like they did, where everyone took accountability.

"It's big because obviously we aren't playing like we want to play right now," said Johnson. "We're trying to turn this thing around and get back on track. If we get those things figured out, we'll get back on track and play football how we want to. We won't have to worry about all of the negative stuff people are saying about us and focus on ourselves."

While the results aren't expected to be instantaneous, Johnson does feel confident the results are coming.

"Everybody is going to make mistakes. We're not perfect. We're not trying to be perfect," said Johnson. "We are just trying to make plays and win. A lot of times that gets overlooked. It's on us to be on our stuff and know what we are doing at all times. I feel like explaining it to the group, hearing it, figuring out why we are doing things is a good focus point. We are going to be fine. Just details and assignments, continue to harp on those two things and let the rest of it take care of itself."

The goal is to take care of it before they take the field next, which is against the New Orleans Saints in Week 10 at Acrisure Stadium following the bye week.

"Look at the defensive packages, figure out how we can get open, get the ball down the field," said Johnson. "We are trying to get in the end zone. Everybody needs to get in the end zone. We need to turn it around. We need to focus on what we can control and go from there."

Stepping in: Despite leaving the game with a foot injury, cornerback James Pierre saw increased playing time against the Eagles on Sunday, playing 27 snaps, which equals 47% of the defensive snaps.

On Monday, Pierre wasn't celebrating his additional playing time, instead just disappointed with the results.

"Not good at all," said Pierre of how he felt. "We lost. Not good at all."

Pierre came into the game for a struggling Ahkello Witherspoon and responded but knows there is more to do.

"We just have to make the plays that come our way," said Pierre. "They made the plays that came their way. Just make the plays and have our eyes on the right things. Our eyes weren't on the right things. Seeing the right stuff. Knowing your assignment. Doing your job. Lock in. Do more. More is required. Just be locked in."

Pierre, who said he feels more confident every time he takes the field, said while there is work to do one thing is true. The effort is there.

"Most definitely the effort was there," said Pierre. "The effort is always going to be there as long as you are a Steeler."

Goal line or bust: Finishing drives.

That is a point the offense is trying to pound home this week as they have extra time to focus on details during the bye week.

And it's something running back Jaylen Warren knows is possible, it's just going to take work.

"We're good going down the field," said Warren. "We just have to finish in the red zone. Whether that means different plays or execution. We have to capitalize on those things.

"Minimize our mistakes. We shoot ourselves in the foot a lot. It's things we can control, which is a good thing. We have the talent. We just have to minimize our mistakes. Just be more aware."

One way to help finish the drives is by creating splash plays, shortening them and therefore preventing mistakes. But Warren doesn't care how it gets done, as long as they score and win.

"Whatever it takes to score," said Warren. "Whether it's an eight-play drive, a 20-play drive. Whatever is necessary."

Tune in: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on your phone or tablet. Start your free trial today here.

Monday, October 31

Accountability a key: The message in the Steelers locker room on Monday afternoon was strikingly similar to what was being said Sunday following the 35-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Be accountable.

"As a team we have to hold ourselves accountable," said safety Terrell Edmunds. "We know we haven't been playing good football. We're 2-6. We have to figure out where we need to be and go from there.

"The effort is there. We are meeting. The coaches are putting us in the best position We just have to go out there and make plays.

"As a team I feel like we can play a better game. That is something we're going to focus on this week, focus on what we can do better as a team to play better."

Edmunds said one of those steps it to basically look in the mirror and see what each individual can do. 

"We have to be honest with ourselves and figure out what we have to do," said Edmunds.

He said he doesn't see confidence waning from anyone on the team despite the record and is hoping the time during the bye week will help them figure things out.

"We are all talking to each other every day," said Edmunds. "We are all locked in, focused. We know we have to figure out what we have to do to get better and let's do it. We have a whole other half to the season."

One steady force for Edmunds and the team has been Coach Mike Tomlin. Edmunds said he hasn't gotten down on the players but does have the burning fire in him that wants to turn things around.

"He is locked in," said Edmunds. "He wants to win. He wants us to win for the team. He is a competitive guy. We are all out there trying to win. You can see his competitive juices boiling because we're 2-6. Nobody likes to lose. We have to figure out what to do."

Back to fundamentals: The message was loud and clear following the loss to the Eagles, especially on the offensive side of the ball where being fundamentally sound was hammered home.  

"(Coach) Tomlin talked to us a little bit after the game," said center Mason Cole. "Fundamentally, we've got to be better everywhere, across the board.

"Just fundamentally we have to be better, especially when we get down to those tight red zone areas. We have to protect the ball. We have to do the right things. We have to be on the right guys. Those are valuable parts of the game. Those points when you get in the red zone, you need six. You can't just get field goals and win games. It's the NFL. You have to score touchdowns."

The offense was haunted by multiple pre-snap penalties, including two illegal formation penalties on the offensive line.

"I think we've seen on tape a lot of mental mistakes across our offense," said Cole. "This is the National Football League. This is our job. This is what we get paid to do. For guys to not know what they're doing on a play…it falls on them. Guys have to know what they are doing. We're given all the tools. We're given the assignments. It's our job to know where we're supposed to be and how we're supposed to do it."

Cole, who is in his fifth season in the NFL and first with the Steelers, has quickly become a leader on the offensive line and said he is always willing to do his part to help others.

"I think the biggest thing is to lead by example," said Cole. "Helping these guys see what it's like to study. I am not perfect either. None of us are perfect. We can all do a better job. This is our job. If we get paid to do a job, we should do it at the highest level. That includes studying, being prepared, line up properly, block the right people, have the right technique, and do everything we can to win."

Getting his shot: On Saturday, defensive lineman Carlos Davis was elevated from the practice squad to the game day roster because of the injury to Larry Ogunjobi.

On Sunday, he recorded his first career sack, taking down Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts for an eight-yard loss.

"It was awesome," said Davis. "I loved every single minute of it. I was excited to make a play for the team.

"It didn't hit me until around 1 am. I was trying to sleep. It didn't hit me right away, making a play like that coming off p-squad. I am happy. I am excited."

Davis was drafted by the Steelers in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He played in 12 games since he was drafted without any starts and has continually worked to get to this moment.

"You have to be detailed, really work and wait for your time to shine," said Davis. "I am just happy to get an opportunity whenever my time is. I just want to make plays for the Steelers and go get wins.

"(Pass rush) is an area of my game I feel confident in. I spent a lot of time in it in the offseason working here with Coach (Karl) Dunbar. It's something I have been able to excel in in my game."

Tune in: For fans who don't want to miss any of the action, NFL+ is here, which means you can now watch the Steelers live and on the go! Watch live local and primetime regular season games on your phone or tablet. Start your free trial today here.