Hot button games: The Steelers take on the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Heinz Field in an AFC North matchup that Coach Mike Tomlin referred to during his weekly press conference as a ‘hot button game.’ Tomlin said he welcomes games such as this one and views it as an ‘honor’ to be in these types of battles.
“We’re excited about this game,” said Tomlin. “We love being in hot button games. We love being in hotly contested AFC North games. We are not a group that runs from these types of games, we are the type of group that runs to these types of games. We view it as an honor to be the consistent team in these types of battles. We’ve had some battles with the Ravens over the years. It’s been the signature matchup in the North. We’ve had some battles with Cincinnati over the years, which grew to be a signature matchup in the North. The same thing is happening with this. We don’t know, nor do we care. We just want to be a part of ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ is because this is a competitor’s game and a competitor’s league. We’re excited about being a part of that.
“When you are in it, you feel it. It’s a good feeling. We are competitors, we want to be in those games. We want to be in those matchups. We want to represent the National Football League, our division, this game of football in those hot button, big games and do so appropriately.”
Benny Snell football: Rookie Benny Snell returned to the field against the Bengals after missing the previous three games with a knee injury and responded with a career-high 21 carries for 98 yards in the team’s 16-10 win.
“I can’t say enough about the contributions of Benny Snell coming back off of a knee injury,” said Tomlin. “Young guys coming off an injury and performing to expectations is a really good thing. I thought he did that. I thought he was a catalyst for some positivity in the run game.”
Tomlin said early on he utilized all the team’s available backs, including newly signed Kerrith Whyte, because he didn’t know what Snell would be able to do. Once he saw what Snell was providing the ground game, he stuck with him.
“We don’t have a lot of shared experiences with Benny Snell,” said Tomlin. “He was healthy, but was he going to perform? We didn’t know. Any time you step into a stadium with a young guy you learn about him and I think we learned a lot about Benny Snell by the way he performed coming off that injury. We were cautious about the number of snaps Benny could absorb. I think he went above and beyond our expectations.”
Take it away: The Steelers have forced 28 takeaways so far this season, ranking second overall in the National Football League. The 28 takeaways in the first 11 games of the season are the most the team has had since 1997, when they forced 30 in the first 11 games.
Tomlin said it’s all a credit to the players, who put more emphasis on creating turnovers this year, but he is still striving for more of them.
“I think the players deserve the credit,” said Tomlin. “We make points of emphasis. We construct days that are conducive to building awareness and techniques that produce it. They have to do it. They have to make the catches. They have to be ball aware and they have done that to a man. I don’t think it’s any secret. I think it’s a collective effort. I think it’s been collectively. I think they have collectively decided, and I am thankful for that.
“I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that we left some out there. We left some out there in Cincinnati. That game would have ended a lot more fluidly had we caught some of those balls that we dropped in our secondary. We are still very much a group in progress in all areas and probably will be. That is just the story of seeking perfection.”