No bye is a bad bye

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By BOB LABRIOLA
Steelers.com

Even though the Steelers didn't play a game last weekend, there was a plan. A team's bye is the only respite the players get from the grind of a 16-game regular season schedule, and so the time is precious.

The Steelers completed their weekend off and now have turned their focus to a Monday night game in Denver against the 6-1 Broncos, but before closing the book on it Coach Mike Tomlin explained why he handled it the way he did.

Unlike his first two experiences with the bye, Tomlin brought the team in for just one day before dismissing the players for the rest of the week. The Steelers – with the exception of the rookies – had five full days off before reporting back to work on Monday, Nov. 2.

If the decision seemed risky in a business when less free time is seen as being better, Tomlin said it just seemed to make sense for this particular team at this particular point in this particular season.

"We're a veteran group, and it's been well-documented we had a short offseason, etc., etc.," said Tomlin "I'm always going to try and do what's appropriate for the 53 men that we work with and I'm really not going to subscribe to any theory or approach in terms of how to deal with each individual decision that we make. We're just going to try and do what's best for the team at that appropriate time. That's what I thought was appropriate for this group of men last week."

This group of men include a dozen guys in their 30s and another nine who are at least 28, and that's not as young as it would sound in another profession.

But age also has its privileges, because while the Steelers veterans were able to rest their bodies, the team's rookies reported to work for two extra days before being given a long weekend off.

"We did some fundamental development, we got some individual instruction, we went out and worked on elements of their game, technical things that they need to improve in, we hit some weights, we got some classroom instruction," said Tomlin about what the rookies did on those two days. "It's still about growing and developing, not only individually those young men but as a football team, and the more individualized time we can give a young football player, I think the better we're going to be for it. We've got some young guys who are contributing mightily to our efforts at this point, and I would imagine that's going to increase so we've got to continue to keep those guys game ready."

Then there's also the age-old question about the timing of a team's bye. Does it damage the momentum of a team on a winning streak? Is it better if it serves as a break when a team is going bad? Is it better early? Or late?

"I've never been a part of a bye week that didn't come at an appropriate time," said Tomlin. "It seems like it's always on time and when it's over, you're ready to get back at it, and such is the case this time."

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