Tomlin Takes

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'Tomlin's Takes' on feeling numb, coaches & more

Feeling numb: In all reality there is only one team that is happy with how the NFL season ends, and that is the team hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Every other team feels the pain, no matter what they accomplished along the way through adversity.

The Steelers rebounded from an 0-3 start, which transitioned into a 1-4 record and then blossomed into an 8-5 record, that eventually gave way to an 8-8 record when injuries finally caught up to the black and gold.

It wasn't the way the team wanted the season to end, not when they went from the doorstep of the postseason to the sudden ending of the season that always comes without warning.

"I am still a little bit numb, to be quite honest with you," said Tomlin. "You fight over the course of what is half a calendar year to put yourself in the position to be a team in the tournament and it comes to a screeching halt. I have been in the business long enough to understand that, what it means and to understand the significance of it. But it doesn't lessen the disappointment that I have.

"But at the same time, it doesn't lessen the resolve that I have. We endured a lot of adversity throughout the course of the season. In a lot of ways, some of it created by the game itself, natural attrition associated with play. Some of it was our doing. It always is. We fall short of perfection like everyone. And hopefully we have learned from it in some way.

"We have to absorb the lessons learned from 2019 in an effort to control what we can control and that is the foundation of 2020. We are going to quickly move to that. And part of moving to that is assessing 2019 and doing so in a very detailed and methodical way. We are at the very beginnings of that. I am in the very beginning stages of assessing what happened, the evaluation of the men, the evaluation of the coaching staff. Starting the planning how we move forward and things of that nature."

Coaching questions: One of the hot topics this week was if there will be any changes on the coaching staff as the offseason approaches. Tomlin acknowledged he hasn't gotten to that point in the evaluation process yet but hasn't ruled anything out.

"I understand that change is a part of the business," said Tomlin. "I wouldn't be shocked if there is some movement and change, that is just part of this business, particularly in 2019."

The team hasn't had a separate quarterback's coach since Randy Fichtner took over as offensive coordinator in 2018 and assumed both duties. Tomlin didn't rule out the potential of adding a quarterback's coach to the staff but didn't have anything definitive yet.

"In terms of a division of labor from a staff standpoint, a quarterback's coach being one of them, those are things that I evaluate as I assess the staff and how we worked and the type of foundation we need to lay as we move forward to 2020," said Tomlin. "I am not opposed to that thought process, that discussion, that exploration. No doubt."

Taking a step: One thing Tomlin always preaches is the importance of rookies taking a big step in their second year. Two players who that spotlight was on this year were 2018 No. 1 pick Terrell Edmunds and No. 2 pick James Washington. Edmunds started all 16 games at strong safety in 2019, finishing with 94 tackles and three pass defenses. Washington finished this season with 44 receptions for 735 yards and three touchdowns after having 16 receptions for 217 yards and one touchdown his rookie season.

Tomlin said he is still evaluating the play of all of the players from this season, but his initial reaction is he did see them both take a jump.

"I did in some ways," said Tomlin. "I think I am still in the evaluation stage of it. Just a gut reaction yes. But it all starts with a level of conditioning that displays an understanding of what lies ahead. We've talked about it at the onset of this journey. Most of the guys displayed that awareness. So, it's reasonable to expect a jump in performance.

"James Washington displayed that awareness with a level of conditioning when he showed up in Latrobe. It is not surprising he was able to take a significant jump in what he was able to do to contribute to us for example."

Football junkie: Like any rookie, Devin Bush got help from a variety of teammates this season, helping to guide him through his first season both on and off the field.

One of those players who provided a lot of guidance was Ryan Shazier. Shazier was a regular at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex all season and didn't just help Bush, but other teammates as well this year.

"Ryan is a football junkie. He is. He loves it," said Tomlin. "He loves to be around it. He loves to talk it. He is an asset to those guys as a teammate. It's no different than any other guy that is injured and has his hand in the pile and helping his guys get ready, whether it's day-to-day from a practice standpoint or whether it's game work. We expect all our injured guys to be positive contributors to our efforts and he is among those guys, just like Ben (Roethlisberger) was this year. We are really pleased with the contributions from him in that regard as well."

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