Labriola On

Tomlin: 'I believe in these guys'

On Tuesday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, the issue that hung over the noon proceeding had to do with the Steelers' 1-2 start to this regular season and what was going to be done about it.

Coach Mike Tomlin sat down behind the microphone and got right to it.

"We have to absorb the negativity with our current state, and our positioning. We're 1-2; we don't desire to be, but we are. We're playing poorly; we don't desire to, but we are. So more importantly is: what's our course of action in terms of changing the quality of play and then the outcome of games? We've got to remain singularly professionally focused in the midst of this negativity. We've got to have good work days. We've got to get better individually and collectively.

"Now, how does that happen?

"There are three prongs, or three points of emphasis that I'm focused on: The schematics or the positioning of people. We have to continually do a better job as a staff to have an understanding of what our strengths and weaknesses are from a personnel standpoint and play to our strengths and minimize our weaknesses. We haven't done that well enough, and that's one of the reasons why we played the way that we played on Sunday.

"We've also got to get the guys better fundamentally, and that (involves) skills relative to their positions. And that just requires tedious work or repetition of routine action. And that's what we're doing in practice settings.

"And along the way, the players, individually and collectively, have to gain an understanding or knowledge of the game, relative to the positions they play. That's born in practice, and it's also born in games. We've got some guys, who individually need growth in that area, and we all need growth in that area collectively."

Missing from Tomlin's three points of emphasis were two courses of action that always are popular with Steelers fans after a loss: Benching players currently in the starting lineup or occupying significant roles offensively or defensively; and bringing in "help" from the outside.

"We're not gonna push the panic button," said Tomlin.

"What do I mean by the panic button? We're not going to dramatically change who and what we are at this juncture. We're not resistant to change for the purposes of getting better, but we're not going to be so unsteady that we move away from our compass, the identity that we worked hard to develop and we'll continue to work hard to develop. We will make necessary adjustments, whatever that may be, born out of conversations and work and what we see in preparation, but that's the natural course of action that we go through each and every week.

"We would have that mentality and take that approach if we had played well and won (last Sunday), because each week presents a new challenge in the NFL. And so that's where we are. We accept responsibility for poor performance, me first and foremost as a leader of the group, but we also resolve to rectify it."

Throughout the listing of the work that has to be done, Tomlin was specific and resolute. Then when asked how he believed his team would respond to the challenges that lie ahead, he was upbeat.

"I'm excited about doing it with them," said Tomlin. "I believe in these guys and their football character. Their willingness to work has been on display throughout this process. I'm excited about getting back to work (Wednesday)."

TOMLIN'S INJURY UPDATE:
"(Chuks) Okorafor is in the concussion protocol, and that'll be our guide in terms of his return to work and then we'll let that quality work be our guide in terms of his participation (in the Green Bay game). I anticipate JuJu Smith-Schuster (ribs) practicing at some point this week. He may be limited (Wednesday), but he'll get back to work for us. A number of guys who were out last week – Diontae Johnson, T.J. Watt, Alex Highsmith – are scheduled to practice. And then we'll let the quantity and the quality of that practice be our guide in terms of determining their availability. The IR guys are working hard, maybe in some instances are close, but I haven't asked for a lot of detailed information about where they are at this point although we're now starting to get into the phase of eligibility (to return to the active roster). Once we deem those guys back to work, they get 21 calendar days to determine their availability, so I don't have a lot of details regarding that other than an acknowledgement that we are at that state. I believe Kendrick Green's situation is bumps and bruises associated with play. I don't think his availability (for practice starting Wednesday) is going to be limited. If I'm wrong, you'll hear about it in the practice participation report."

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