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Tomlin: That was a step back

With a nod to COVID-19 protocols, Coach Mike Tomlin's weekly news conference is held in the indoor practice facility at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, essentially on a football field with a building built around it.

In other words, it's a really big room, and it didn't take Tomlin long to address the elephant in that very big room at noon on Tuesday, less than 12 hours after the Steelers escaped with a 29-27 win over the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football.

As is his custom, Tomlin opened with a review of the previous game, and he chose to highlight some of the things the Steelers did well in securing a victory that was their fourth in a row, one that raised their record to 5-3 and put them in second place in the AFC North. Then it was time to turn the spotlight onto the pachyderm.

"I thought just in terms of controlling the line of scrimmage on offense, I thought we didn't do that," said Tomlin. "That was a step back relative to recent weeks, but you've got to give the Bears credit. And guys like (defensive linemen) Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, and linebacker Roquan Smith really played well. I thought they were disruptive. I thought they won one-on-one battles. I thought they wreaked havoc. And as you know, we still very much have young guys working in that space. And so I'm not shocked sometimes when I look at tape, and I see incremental steps backward as we move forward. But largely I think the trajectory of our group has been one that's positive. But we're not being realistic, or true to ourselves, if we didn't acknowledge that was a step back last night.

"The most important thing is, how do we utilize it as a catalyst for growth, individually and collectively? We've got to watch the tape, we've got to learn from it. (Tuesday) we've got to plot a course to minimize the possibility of that happening moving forward. So we've got a lot of work to do in that area on the short week, and we're excited about doing it."

When Tomlin was asked about weighing necessary change vs. staying the course and allowing young players to develop when it comes to "getting things done," he said, "We proceed with that assumption every week. We will put our best group on the field every week that we believe gives us the best chance of winning that particular game. And so the guys who we had on the field last night were reflective of that. We'll see what this week holds. Zach (Banner) will be included in that mix this week, just like some others. And at the end of the week, we'll decide who gives us the best chance, and that's who we'll go with."

But as follow-up questions were posed and Tomlin answered them, it appeared he has a belief, at least right now, that the group of five – Dan Moore Jr., Kevin Dotson, Kendrick Green, Trai Turner, and Chuks Okorafor – currently gives the Steelers the best chance to continue developing as an offense and win games along the way.

There was one question about Green, the rookie center, who was getting pushed around somewhat by the Bears bigger and sometimes more physical defensive linemen, and Tomlin's answer about his play could be applied to the other four young offensive linemen as well.

"Get back to work," said Tomlin about how he would address Green sometimes getting pushed off the line of scrimmage. "You know, you win some and you lose some. You learn from those that you lose, and hopefully you learn from those that you win as well. But we roll the ball back out, and we'll go back to work. Guys like him who are working on a small body of professional work, I just think they grow and they grow exponentially each time they step in and out of stadiums."

"Bumps and bruises from the game: Chase Claypool is being evaluated with a toe injury. He's actually getting an MRI right now; I don't know the extent of that. We had several guys who had minor things that could slow them into the early portions of the week. Robert Spillane with an ankle; Cam Heyward with an ankle; Isaiah Buggs with a hip. Eric Ebron (hamstring) had a good week last week. We anticipate him working and working as early as (Wednesday) and letting the quality of that work be our guide in terms of the potential inclusion of him in this plan."

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