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Tomlin Takes

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'Tomlin's Takes' on smoke & mirrors, Shazier & more

Working on it: The saying goes that turnovers come in bunches, and the Steelers are hoping as they head into the stretch run that is the case. In the past two games the defense hasn’t created a turnover, and have only three in the last four games.

Coach Mike Tomlin said it’s an area they are focused on, and while the defense is doing the right stuff, the turnovers just aren’t coming.

“We are in the process of working on it,” said Tomlin. “It’s done in a lot of ways. A lot of it is done by creating environments, putting a quarterback under duress. That is one of the reasons why I have been disappointed in the lack of turnovers. The quarterback largely has been under duress in the games we have played. We have gotten after the quarterback. Our sack total is a reflection of that.

“We’ve got to be more opportunistic. We have to preach it. We have to work it. The guys have to deliver. We aren’t going to sit on our hands and wait patiently for it to occur. We’re going to actively seek it, which is what we are doing.”

Smoke and mirrors: Tomlin admitted that on Sunday night he didn’t get all of the matchups he wanted against Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, but that wasn’t because of scheme. In some instances it was because of personnel.

The Steelers were without Morgan Burnett, missing the game because of a back injury, and Cameron Sutton, who was inactive after missing practice all week because of personal reasons. That made it difficult defending Keenan Allen, who finished the night with 14 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown.

“That is the chess match that is the NFL, particularly at this portion of the journey,” said Tomlin. “Sometimes you have guys available, sometimes you don’t. It was no secret we were without Morgan Burnett and Cam Sutton, two of our core interior sub-package defenders. There was going to be some smoke and mirror play if you will, and it was. But when you are playing a guy like Philip Rivers, who has big time autonomy at the line of scrimmage, sometimes you run out of smoke. We ran out of smoke.”

An amazing journey: One year ago, on Dec. 4, 2017, life changed for Ryan Shazier. He suffered a spinal injury against the Cincinnati Bengals that night and underwent spinal stabilization surgery two days later.

He has been an inspiration since that day, taking a positive approach to his recovery. He didn’t sit around feeling sorry for himself, instead getting out and doing everything he could, first coming to Heinz Field for a game, then standing at a Penguins game, walking across the stage at the NFL Draft to announce the Steelers No. 1 pick, and walking across the practice field on his own during training camp much to the delight of Steelers Nation. When the Steelers played in Cincinnati earlier this year, he visited the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, the facility he was taken to immediately after the injury, to say thank you to the staff.

His story is an inspiring one, and watching the progress he has made in the last year is something that has touched everyone close to him.

“Ryan is a special guy,” said Tomlin. “I don’t know if I can give what we witnessed just due by talking about it. To be around him every day, to witness it, is a special thing. He is a special guy. He inspires us. He continues to inspire us.

“I appreciate that he allows us to be as close as we are to his journey. His journey is ongoing. We are going to continue to support him and continue to learn from him.”

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