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Tomlin Takes

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'Tomlin's Takes' on empty stadiums, JuJu, Bud, T.J. & more

A preview of what's to come: The Steelers return to the comforts of home this week when they host the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field, but some of the normal comforts will be missing.

There won't be any fans in attendance, the normal home crowd not permitted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday night's game in New York gave the team their first look of what football in 2020 is like, and while the play is the same, what surrounds it isn't fully.

"It felt like a normal game," said Coach Mike Tomlin. "These are not normal circumstances. I'd be less than honest if I said the empty stadium on Monday Night Football felt normal. But it is normal for us in 2020.

"There are certain advantages to it. There are certain challenges to it. I thought last night gave us an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with both components of that discussion and hopefully we are better as we move forward because of it."

What they expected: JuJu Smith-Schuster came out of the gates strong against the Giants on Monday Night Football, grabbing all six passes thrown his way for 69 yards and two touchdowns.

Smith-Schuster also had a key play recovering a fumble by Benny Snell that could have been a game-changer with the Steelers holding on to a 16-10 lead at the time. Smith-Schuster came up with the recovery at the boom of a pile of Giants defenders battling him for it.

"That's JuJu," said Tomlin. "He came in ready to play and he performed well. We've seen that from him most of the time he has been here. I don't know that any of us were surprised by what he delivered last night."

Down a man: The Steelers could have had one more player in uniform for Monday night's game because of a new rule in the NFL this year.

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was agreed upon earlier this year allows teams to have a maximum of 48 players active for the game, one more than in the past, as long as they have eight offensive linemen dressed, which the Steelers did.

The team, however, went with only 47 players for the game.

"There was some indecision on my part about the rule," said Tomlin. "We didn't get clarity on it until extremely late in the process. From an overall preparedness standpoint, we decided to put the helmets on the guys that were prepared to play and had an understanding they were going to play.

"I take responsibility for the miscommunication. It's a learning process for us. There are a lot of memos coming out of New York these days so it's tough to keep up with them."

He said it:

"Bud (Dupree) is a dangerous guy. As is T.J. (Watt). When you have an outside linebacker tandem like that in the 3-4 defense, you have an opportunity to play great defense. We're cognizant of the contributions of those two men and appreciative of it and that's why we are excited about the group that we have." – Mike Tomlin on his outside linebackers

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