Living remotely: The Steelers will be in the NFL's intensive protocol again this week, with all meetings virtual for the second week in a row.
For Coach Mike Tomlin, and others on the coaching staff, that does present a challenge and it's something he said they have to address better this week.
"In this COVID environment, we are in the intensive protocol as an organization," said Tomlin as he opened his weekly press conference. "Like last week, this week we will also be meeting remotely. The only in-person work that will take place for us this week are the walkthroughs and the practices.
"It is my hope that we do a better job this week than we did a week ago, better instructing, better listening, better use of the time, better understanding of the technology and the resources at our disposal in an effort to combat the challenges that are associated with it. No question you lose a little bit when you're not in the same physical space, when you don't get the chance to look at the man's eye or feel the reactions to the information. We as a staff are working extremely hard to avail ourselves of all the options in that regard in an effort to be at our best.
"We're also open to learning from players. It's probably more of an adjustment for us as coaches than it is for players. They live in that technological world, handheld devices and so forth. They appear to be extremely comfortable with it. I think there's less comfort from a coaching standpoint. In an effort to deliver appropriate material and in an effort to have them duly prepared it has our attention, and it is required. We will be in that state this week. I think it's a significant thing for us to get better here this second time around the track."
Tomlin said the toughest part is that not being able to look the players in the eye, not have that normal engagement that they have become accustomed to through the years.
"It's just human nature," said Tomlin. "It's easier to be wired in and engaged in conversation when there is close proximity. You can feel body clues as someone who teaches or instructs. And so, it gives you an indication of whether you need to move on on a particular subject or repeat.
"I think, just as teachers, and that's what we are as coaches, you need that feedback. You need that feel. It's challenging and difficult doing it via Zoom and things of that nature. Again, I'm not complaining. I'm just acknowledging and I'm really trying to set a mentality for the week for us as a staff that we can get better in that area as we proceed into the second week of this."
He does admit, though, that he has adapted better to working via Zoom and other programs now than he did in March.
"I'm working hard not to be resistant to it," said Tomlin. "Our coaches are doing the same, but some of us are dinosaurs. We give ground grudgingly if you will, but more than anything, we are gaining experience with it. The more experience you gain, the more comfortable you get, the more innovative you get, and hopefully that is transpiring for all of us. I know I am working hard so that this transpires for me and the things that I need to do for the group."
Finding their identity: There are some NFL teams known as running teams, some are passing teams, and some are teams where defense is what their identity is all about.
Tomlin was asked through nine games, what the Steelers identity is.
The answer was, well, perfect.
"Hopefully our identity is wining," said Tomlin. "We need to be diverse and versatile enough to be what we need to be just about in any circumstance, and we need to have enough depth to meet the challenges of attrition that is associated in this game. We have to have enough talent across a wide variety of areas to play a certain style of play when circumstances or opponent dictates it, but more than anything, I want our personality to be that of a winner."
Making an impact: Before the 2020 season began, there was a lot of talk league-wide about how tough it might be on rookies to make contributions given the fact that there wasn't a true offseason program and no preseason games.
That has been anything but the case in Pittsburgh.
The team's rookies, from Chase Claypool and Alex Highsmith, to Kevin Dotson and Anthony McFarland, have made contributions to the team that not many expected. And much of that is a credit to their teammates.
"Those guys are working extremely hard, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention the quality leadership that we have from our veterans players who do a really good job of embracing our young people and not only helping them in terms of schematics and X's and O's but way of life things, how to take care of your body and things of that nature," said Tomlin. "We have a really good culture here in that regard, and I would imagine if you ask the rookies that they would echo the same sentiment that the veteran support that they get is significant in terms of allowing them to answer the challenges of playing."