Tomlin Takes

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'Tomlin's Takes' on diversifying, Mason & more

Coach Mike Tomlin weighs in on a variety of topics heading into Sunday game against the New England Patriots.

Not a blockbuster night: It's not the comparison you expected to hear during Coach Mike Tomlin's weekly press conference leading in to Sunday's game against the New England Patriots, but it's one that makes all the sense in the world.

When asked about the performance of Javon Hargrave during training camp and the preseason, Tomlin had praised him for being solid.

Then he compared his position, nose guard, to Blockbuster video.

"I like how he continues to add to his portfolio," said Tomlin. "I often kid him, 'A nose guard is like Blockbuster video. He better diversify.'"

And while it drew a lot of laughs from the media, it's spot on. Things are changing on defenses with sub-packages, making the nose guard's job much different than it was even five years ago, just like the popularity of Netflix and others are making Blockbuster stores almost extinct, forcing them to diversify and join a satellite network to stay alive.

"Nose doesn't get an opportunity to play much so he better reinvent himself as a sub-package rusher," said Tomlin. "And he has done that over the last couple of years because of that challenge. Thus he has made himself more useful to us. It doesn't matter if he is a major component on first down or they chose to play in that mode, he still has an opportunity to contribute to our efforts, to impact the game because of how he has developed as a sub-package rusher.

"Same discussion with Daniel McCullers. It's the evolution of roles in the game and the opportunities. You've got to have those necessary discussions. Nose guards in the National Football League in 2019 better be able to do other things. Same with fullback."

Earning his job: A more confident, better prepared Mason Rudolph did a lot of things right during the preseason, and it paid off for him as he won the team's No. 2 quarterback spot over Josh Dobbs, ready to backup Ben Roethlisberger this season.

Rudolph completed 28 of 43 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns, with just one interception, while turning in a quarterback rating of 113.3.

"He took very good care of the ball," said Tomlin. "He showed the natural maturation process we expect from second year players. First he showed up in great physical condition. He showed a guy that has been a lap around the track. I think it set the stage for a more consistent performance.

"I think he has grown a lot in terms of his understanding of how we attack people and his role in the offense. I think it showed in his play. All of those are reasons why he is the backup quarterback.

"It's very fluid, just like all of our jobs. I think one of the things you have to relay to a team, particularly at this portion of the season with young guys living out their dreams, they will continually earn those roles and positions within the group day to day. It never ends. There is no opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief. It won't be for Mason. It won't be for any of us. He better earn that second quarterback job daily. If not, Dobbs will be waiting. That is just the nature of this thing at this level. We relayed that not only to the quarterbacks, but to all of the guys. This is just the beginning for us. How we proceed the division of labor, what we ask guys to do, the amount of which we ask guys to do, whether or not they continue to be here is based on performance. That is just professional football."

Liking the atmosphere: This year will mark the fourth time the Steelers have opened the season against the Patriots, previously doing so in 1979, 2002 and 2015. It's the third time they are opening against them with the Patriots coming off a Super Bowl win ('02 and '15), and Steelers players know that means there will be a lot of hype around the game. But that doesn't bother them, as several have said they enjoy the atmosphere at Gillette Stadium.

"That doesn't surprise me at all," said Tomlin. "Cooks like to be in the kitchen. These guys are competitors. That's a competitor's environment up there. I am not surprised by that at all. I would like to change the outcome of some of them. The only one that we can control is the one that happens this weekend so that is our focus."

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