Expecting growth: The Steelers take the field for their second preseason game on Thursday night, when they travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Coach Mike Tomlin said to expect those who played last week against the Cowboys in the Pro Football Hall of Fame game to see similar action this week and he is hoping to see them take the next step. He also said there will be some players thrown into the mix who didn't see action last week and he is looking to see what they bring as well.
"In some ways I am looking for very similar things I was looking for a week ago," said Tomlin. "There are a number of guys for a variety of reasons that will be getting their first opportunity to play this year. I am looking for first opportunity to play like things. I'm looking for cleanliness in pre-snap situations and circumstances. And that's playing penalty free on offense, executing shifts and motions with fluidity, and working with the demeanor that we want to work from a pre-snap standpoint on offense to make sure that we're communicating and adjusting and doing the things that we need to do in terms of dealing with that on the defensive side. I do have some guys playing for the first time and so I'll be looking for some of those things, things that I was looking for a week ago.
"In some other instances, I'll be looking for elevation in play, not only in terms of quality of play and technique, but also awareness because it's reasonable to expect individuals to take a step the more they get exposed to game like circumstances. Last week it was an exposure for some. It's reasonable to expect them to grow in terms of awareness relative to that exposure, to be more consistent in developing techniques in competitive play. For their talents to show. For them to play more fluid and faster now, having gained some experience.
"There's a bunch of little, small different agendas that go through your mind as you prepare to put a group into a stadium, particularly when you're working with 90 guys at different stages of development. This will be the first game for the Eagles and we'll have an opportunity to be in another first game like scenario and there's some benefit to that. You expect guys to be better. I think it's reasonable to expect us to continually grow throughout this process and you should see some significant things."
"It's going to be very similar to last week for a lot of the guys who you would consider frontline like guys. You shouldn't expect an increased amount of participation for those guys. We're comfortable with what they were able to do last week and gain some in game experience and exposure and communicate and so forth. We'll repeat that process but not necessarily with an increased number of snaps. There'll be additions to that group who will get some first game exposure. It will be exciting to see some of those guys, not only compete as individuals, but as a collective group and see our growth from that perspective."
As far as specifics of who will play, who won't play, Tomlin said no decisions were made at the time of his press conference on Tuesday afternoon. No matter who is out there, Tomlin will have a group ready to go.
"I'm always excited about taking this group into a stadium," said Tomlin. "I expect growth. I expect to see it displayed. I'm always excited to watch the process."
Run game bully: With T.J. Watt not taking part in team drills in camp, it's been an opportunity for the coaches to see what Melvin Ingram III can do in the defense.
Ingram III was signed in late July, a pass rushing specialist who will bolster the defense. He spent his entire nine-year career with the Los Angeles Chargers after being selected in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the 18th player overall. Ingram III, a three-time Pro Bowl selection (2017-19), has 49 career sacks, including career highs of 10.5 in 2015 and 2017.
He started 96 of the 113 games he has played in and recorded 348 tackles, including 254 solo stops, 28 pass defenses, 13 forced fumbles, seven fumble recoveries and three interceptions.
Ingram III battled a knee injury in 2020, forcing him to miss time, playing in just seven games with 10 tackles and no sacks before landing on injured reserve.
"I challenged Melvin Ingram this morning in a team setting, we are coming after Melvin Ingram today," said Tomlin, in advance of the rain that interrupted practice. "Melvin is a run game bully, so we are going to get to know him a little better today.
"He's a football lover. He's a competitor. He likes to work. He fits in nicely with the guys."
Take a look at the Steelers training and preparing for the 2021 season at Heinz Field
Bringing intangibles: The Steelers added veteran guard Trai Turner in June, just a day after the team released guard David DeCastro.
Turner, a seven-year veteran, has been voted to five Pro Bowls since being drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He played six seasons for the Panthers before being traded to the Los Angeles Chargers before the 2020 season.
He has played in 93 games in his career, starting 89 of those games.
There is something else he also brings and that is leadership, something Tomlin sees when Turner is working with rookie center Kendrick Green.
"It's been good to watch him work and see he is a communicator," said Tomlin. "He has embraced the stage he is in in his career. Although he is new to us, he is doing a real good job communicating with younger players like Kendrick Green in terms of coordinating cohesion and just talking general NFL football and life. Oftentimes you can see those two guys working after practice reviewing whatever transpired collectively between them during the course of a work day.
"That developing a relationship is being initiated by Trai. I appreciate that. I expect him to do his job and do his job well. I am appreciative when I see him doing things that add value to us in intangible ways. He has shown that. He has been a football lover. He is enjoying the process. He is getting to know his teammates. He is adding value to us in informal ways like that."