Tomlin Takes

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Tomlin's Takes on penalties, Layne and Gentry

Area of focus: There are a lot of things Coach Mike Tomlin focuses on in practice each day, but this week, there was something a little bit different.

Penalties.

After having two holding calls impact the team's first two drives against the Eagles last week, both drives ending in punts, Tomlin had the team focus on playing penalty free football this week.

"We are continuing to work to gain an understanding of the points of emphasis from an officiating standpoint in 2021," said Tomlin. "In order to be a tough team to beat, you can't beat yourselves. So, we're working to play penalty free and that starts not only with understanding the game, but just how the game is officiated at this level and in this year.

"The points of emphasis have been big for us. We were off to a slow start in our last performance because we had holding penalties on early drives and they're drive killers. Working to play penalty free is something that we've been focused on this week because we realized that that slows progress, and it did to us in our last outing."

Taking advantage: It's all about opportunity and if there is one player who is working to make every opportunity count, it's Justin Layne. The third-year cornerback has been making plays in practice during training camp, as well as in the Steelers first two preseason games.

Against the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game, Layne had four tackles and forced a fumble. Against the Eagles he returned an interception 11 yards.

It's those plays that open eyes.

"He's done a nice job in terms of working to improve his skill over this process and consistency in his play and he'll have an opportunity Saturday night and next week to add to that," said Tomlin. "It's reasonable to expect him to continue to have an upward trajectory in terms of the quality of play."

Making progress: In his first two seasons, tight end Zach Gentry has seen limited playing time, with just one reception for four yards. Gentry is currently listed as the team's third tight end, behind Eric Ebron and Pat Freiermuth, but he has been making progress in camp and through the first few weeks of the preseason, bringing a different skillset to the position.  

"He's had great progress," said Tomlin. "We're not ready to paint with a broad brush yet in terms of dividing the labor up or identifying roles. But he's done a nice job and he's particularly utilized his skillset that's a little bit different than others in the room. Zach is 6-8. 280 plus, and so it's reasonable to expect some of those skills to turn up in line of scrimmage play, in blocking in in the run game and it has."

Take a look at the Steelers training and preparing for the 2021 season at Heinz Field

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