LATROBE, Pa. – Coach Mike Tomlin loves training camp. Loves it. Everything about it. As he said at his news conference today in Benedict Hall, "I could play out of Latrobe. I love the environment and the singular focus associated with training camp, but I'm guessing not many share my perspective."
To quote Tomlin's predecessor, Bill Cowher, "That's an accurate statement," and so following a regular practice this afternoon and then a walk-through on Saturday morning, the Steelers' summer at Saint Vincent College will conclude for the 50th time. But even though their time here is finished, that doesn't mean the preseason is over. Players must continue to progress and compete just as they have been doing here since July 25, with looming cut-down dates on Sept. 1 (from 90 to 75) and then on Sept. 4 (from 75 to 53).
The first item on the agenda following the team's return to Pittsburgh is a 1 p.m. game on Sunday, Aug. 23 against the Green Bay Packers at Heinz Field.
"We are excited for the opportunity for to perform at Heinz field in front on our fans," said Tomlin. "That's why I have my Steelers Nation Unite shirt on. It's always good to be in front of them, starting out our relationship with them for 2015. We will look at the stadium's renovation in terms of how it plays out during the game for us. But largely, the evolution process continues for this group. It is a significant step for us in terms of details and in some of the things that we are looking for."
Tomlin announced that rookie cornerback Senquez Golson, the team's No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, had surgery on Friday morning on the shoulder that originally landed him on the physically unable to perform list for the start of camp. There was no definitive word on whether this surgery will end Golson's rookie season, but it certainly figures to have him start the season on PUP at the very least.
"Obviously we will do what is appropriate after visiting with the surgeons post operation, but it has been a good couple weeks for (Golson)," said Tomlin. "We had known that surgery was probably something that was going to be necessary from the time he got here, but being a young guy and being in this environment we thought a lot could be gleaned from that and that it could be a great experience for him whether or not he was participating. That's why we waited to get the surgery. He's been in this setting and been in the meetings and been wired in by being an active participant. Hopefully these weeks have been beneficial to him, but as we exit here we thought it was appropriate to go ahead and get that fixed so we did."
Ruled out of the Packers game already with injuries were: Lawrence Timmons (toe), Josh Harris (foot), Vince Williams (hamstring), David Nelson (shoulder), and C.J. Goodwin (knee). In other personnel issues related to the upcoming game vs. the Packers, Tomlin said guard Chris Hubbard will play some center, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva will play right tackle, safety Ian Wild will play inside linebacker, and quarterback/receiver Tyler Murphy will play wide receiver. He also said veteran special teams players Robert Golden, Terence Garvin, Sean Spence, Will Johnson, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Antwon Blake, Dri Archer and some others would see extended time in that phase for the first time this Sunday.
A collection of some spectacular catches during the Pittsburgh Steelers' 2015 training camp.
Ben Roethlisberger will start at quarterback, and Tomlin said Bruce Gradkowski would be the next quarterback into the game.
"From a play-time standpoint we are going to take the same approach we took a week ago in that all the healthy guys are scheduled to play," said Tomlin. "We are going to look to play the first wave of guys more than we did a week ago, the extent of that is not a cookie-cutter discussion, and it really depends on who you are talking about and the position they play. Sometimes it's just based on things we want to see from individuals, and sometimes it's about the relative depth of a position.
"You've seen throughout the course of the year that we have had instances where we have given some young guys extended looks, and in some other instances we've pulled some veteran guys out. That will continue. The big thing is we get enough looks at a lot at guys so we can make proper evaluations, and also we give the guys what they need to continue to grow and develop and push towards game readiness in some instances. Some guys need more reps than others for obvious reasons, youth and so fourth, so we are going to provide that."
Tomlin said this about the competition at punter between Brad Wing and Jordan Berry: "I think both Brad Wing and Jordan Berry have had their moments. I didn't know much about Jordan, but I've been very impressed. We will continue to work them, with Wing getting the first half in the first two games and Berry getting the second. You also have to acknowledge that holding is an element of it as well, and both guys have represented themselves well in that area. (From the punters in camp), you are looking for a large body of work that displays consistency, and during games you want to see them rise to the moment."