Dealing with a short week: It’s a quick turnaround for the Steelers this week, going from a Sunday game at 4:25 to a Thursday night game on the road. It’s a challenge just about every NFL team faces this year, playing on Thursday Night Football, but it is just that – a challenge.
Coach Mike Tomlin is well aware of the challenges, the biggest one being from the health standpoint. There isn’t a lot of time for player’s bodies to recover or much time to prepare on the field.
“The shortness of the week is just an element of it,” said Tomlin. “The health of the unit is probably a bigger variable because you don’t get a lot of information in terms of people working themselves to readiness via a practice setting. You don’t get an opportunity to let things play out in the way things that usually play out on Fridays and Saturdays, in terms of some of the availability things.
“Time provides clarity, and you just don’t have it. You’ve got to make quick decisions, particularly from a planning standpoint. We’re making decisions today that we normally make on a Tuesday afternoon and evening and night. So that 24-hour period, in terms of knowledge of who’s available or potentially who’s available, and to what degree they’re available, is a big component of planning, but it’s fair because both teams face the same circumstances.
“I’m not seeking comfort in that regard. I’m just outlining some of the critical components of dealing with a short week.”
Staying in line: The Steelers switched things up on the offensive line against the Rams, with Matt Feiler moving from right tackle to left guard with Ramon Foster still out with a concussion, and Chuks Okorafor starting at right tackle.
Tomlin said he made the moves in an effort to have the best pass protection on the field while facing Aaron Donald and said any decisions on the line moving forward will likely be based on who is available along with who the team is facing.
“We thought it was just best to get three tackle-like guys on the field in an effort to get our very best pass rushers,” said Tomlin. “We’ve got a different set of challenges this week, in terms of Myles Garrett and company, but we also potentially have got a different mix, in terms of who’s available to us. We’re optimistic about Ramon being available to us. We’re going to use the appropriate mix based on those circumstances, not only at the offensive line, but any at our positions because we’re just trying to win in a game, and so that’s where we are.
“We’ve been in that phase, particularly in a lot of positions on offense for the better part of the year. Such is life man. We’ll put together a plan that best fits the talents and traits of the people we have available to us, not only in the offensive line, but in the backfield and at the wide receiver position.”
One thing many wondered was why not go with Zach Banner, who has seen more snaps than Okorafor this season in a blocking role, the ‘No. 72 is reporting as eligible’ role everyone has become familiar with.
Tomlin’s explanation was simple.
“Banner has been occupying a role and doing a really solid job at that, so why disrupt that?” said Tomlin. “Chuks is fully capable, and I think that’s the thing that you point to, a thing that we always repeat to our guys is that we’re going to need every man in that room, and every man is capable. We’re going to make decisions week in and week out that highlight that and challenge that in certain ways. Chuks’ usage and expansion of roles, in terms of being an inactive type and going to a guy that starts at right tackle was just an example of that, but that’s nothing new.”
Protecting the rock: The Steelers were able to create turnovers against the Rams on Sunday, but the team also turned the ball over with two fumbles.
Tomlin addressed protecting the football without even having to be asked about it during his press conference.
“I know sometimes losing a football is just born out of working extremely hard to make plays, particularly in regards to some of the young people, but the reasoning is irrelevant,” said Tomlin. “When you’re working in the fashion that we’re working, in terms of missing a number of significant people, particularly in the offensive unit, we’ve got to do good, fundamental things, like take care of the ball. That has been a bug for us.
“We’ll continue to work in that area. It’s not like we haven’t placed an emphasis on working that area. Just hasn’t unfolded the way that we would like in stadiums. Thankfully, we’ve been taking the ball away on defense to offset it. Thankfully, we’ve also grown, in terms of our ability to stand up in the face of that adversity that we created.”