Tomlin Takes

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'Tomlin's Takes' on turnovers, Hilton & more

  • On the plus side: The Steelers are plus one in the turnover ratio after two weeks, mainly due to the offense protecting the ball. The Steelers have only a total of two takeaways, an interception by T.J. Watt and a fumble recovery by Artie Burns. Not the numbers Coach Mike Tomlin is looking for, but protecting the ball has given them the balance they need. Ben Roethlisberger has one interception in 71 pass attempts, and that is why the pendulum is swinging in the Steelers direction.

"He has done a great job of taking care of the ball," said Tomlin. "Oftentimes, particularly at the early stages of the season, that is just enough to maybe get you out of a stadium. We have done a good job of taking care of the ball. It's a good thing because at this juncture we haven't gotten the ball a lot. Even though we haven't gotten the ball a lot, we are still plus one in the turnover margin and you know how significant the turnover margin is to winning and losing."

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Staying flexible:** With William Gay seeing limited action on defense, not playing a snap against the Vikings on Sunday, it could put pressure on other linebackers who pull double duty on special teams, something Harrison doesn't do. But, thanks to a Tomlin favorite, 'position flexibility,' it isn't a problem spreading around the special teams snaps.

"That's a non-issue, particularly when you have guys that are football players first," said Tomlin. "We are blessed to have wideouts who are kick coverage capable, guys like (Darrius) Heyward-Bey, guys like JuJu (Smith-Schuster). We have some defensive linemen that participate in teams. We have tight ends like Xavier Grimble, who plays very much like a linebacker in teams.

"When you focus on football player first, positional player second, and those guys display those skills, you have a lot more flexibility where you are not pigeon holed. It gives you flexibility in terms of determining the best players to keep on your roster. It gives you flexibility in terms of determining the best players to put in helmets for matchup purposes on game day. That is why we value position flexibility. That is why we foster an environment where it's encouraged. And we recognize those that display it."

  • Arrow pointed up: Mike Hilton is a player you could use another Tomlin favorite and definitely say his 'arrow is pointed up.' Hilton, who finished the 2016 season on the Steelers practice squad, battled for a spot on the 53-man roster during training camp and the preseason, and didn't just win a spot, but won a role on the defense. He is tied for third on the team with 10 tackles through just two games, and it appears he will have the opportunity for a lot more moving forward.

"He has made plays. We don't try to overanalyze it," said Tomlin. "We try to put guys in position to make plays. And when we do, and they do, we acknowledge it. That's what we've done throughout this process with him in particular. We have given him the opportunity to make plays. He has largely made those plays. He is ascending in his role within our group because of it."

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