Digging deep: The depth at outside linebacker is something that Coach Mike Tomlin said he isn’t ‘feeling great’ about as starter T.J. Watt is battling an abdominal injury and Anthony Chickillo’s status is unknown after an incident over the weekend where he was arrested.
“I am not feeling great, but such is life in the National Football League,” said Tomlin. “At times, you are going to be challenged in certain ways positionally. I didn’t feel great about our running back depth last week. It is part of team and it is a part of this journey and a part of the process. We will make do and we will make the necessary adjustments whether it is outside linebacker or anywhere else that we might be falling short in terms of depth or numbers. We will field a group and we will field a group that is capable of winning football.”
Bud Dupree starts outside along with Watt, and the only other OLB the team has is Ola Adeniyi, who has seen limited playing time, so it is a position where they are thin right now. In addition, the team lost defensive end Stephon Tuitt, and the outside linebackers were among those they were hoping would be able to step up and help fill the void.
“We will let the week reveal that to us based on player availability,” said Tomlin. “We also are comfortable with the rush capabilities of our inside guys. Vince Williams is a guy that has distinguished himself in terms of blitzing and rushing the passer, so what we need is consistent pressure on the quarterback.
“Our words and our actions have always indicated that we are a group that doesn’t care where that comes from, whether it is defensive line or outside linebackers, inside linebackers. As a matter of fact, we take a conscious effort to make sure that we have an opportunity to spread some of that over multiple positions in an effort to be a moving target and that is why even secondary guys at times, Mike Hilton and others, get involved in the rush game. We pride ourselves in having a versatile rush and bringing a multitude of people from a number of positions. This might be the case as we work to minimize the absence of Stephon Tuitt.”
'Bye-ing' time: The Steelers held several practices during their bye week and while it wasn’t about game planning, it was about continuing to develop young players as well as players new to the team, such as Paxton Lynch and Minkah Fitzpatrick.
“Had an opportunity over the course of the week to look at some developing guys,” said Tomlin. “Oftentimes when you experience some of the injuries and so forth that we’ve experienced where people have had an opportunity to get on a moving train, we’ve acquired some players during the course of the journey. It’s good to have a week where we can take a step back and look at some fundamental things and see them in some competitive circumstances or challenge them in different ways other than game prep and game readiness.
“Paxton Lynch comes to mind. We had an opportunity to get him some work last week. Even guys that have been participating. Guys like Minkah (Fitzpatrick) who we’ve been working extremely hard to teach him what it is he needs to do. A week like last week allowed us to take a step back and teach him some more global things. To look at things outside his helmet, and how he can be a part of that process, from detailing things out over the course of the field, but also in terms of pre-snap disguises, and things of that nature. He’s provided good quality play for us. It’s good to take a step back and do some of the other things that are less noticeable, but still significant.”
Cam coming up big: The Steelers are coming off their bye week, but before it Cam Sutton had one of his best games in the Steelers win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Sutton had an interception, which he returned 26 yards and three pass defenses, stepping up when Joe Haden left the game injured.
Sutton continues to develop in all areas, something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Coach Mike Tomlin and they expected after drafting him out of Tennessee.
"It’s just the natural maturation process of a player in an environment,” said Tomlin. “He did a lot at Tennessee in terms of multi-positional things. Safety. Corner. Inside and outside. We had an opportunity to have a real good classroom session with him the night before his pro day, and Kevin Colbert and myself walked out of there saying that guy is really sharp and he’s going to be able to play multiple positions and be able to do a lot of things, and I think his journey to this point has proven that to be true.”