By Alan Robinson
What did we learn from the Mike Tomlin news conference?
The head coach can be critical of players when he wants to be.
On Tuesday, Tomlin singled out cornerback Curtis Brown and punter Zoltan Mesko for what he might term as below the line play. He said Brown wasn’t given a helmet Sunday against the Ravens because his special teams play has slipped precipitously. Brown hasn’t been getting on the field much as a defender – one play all season — so special teams were keeping him active.
Tomlin said Mesko, who replaced Drew Butler at the start of the season, has had one “junior varsity” punt per game and needs more consistency. Mesko ranks next to last in the NFL with a 42.4 yards per punt average, and his net average of 37.2 is fifth from the bottom.
However, Tomlin emphasized that he singled out running back Le’Veon Bell for praise following a 34-yards-on-16 carries performance against the Jets because he wanted to keep his confidence up. Bell responded by running for 93 yards against the Ravens, the most by a Steelers running back in almost a year.
Tomlin said he didn’t want Bell listening to the “elevator music” – i.e. the background noise that might suggest he had a bad game against the Jets.
During his 20-minute media session, Tomlin also said he was “too (mad)” after Emmanuel Sanders’ apparent end zone-to-end zone kickoff return touchdown was erased to notice if the proper amount of time was put on the clock. Sanders was ruled to be out of bounds at the Steelers’ 34, erasing what would have been the longest kickoff return score in team history.
And all those offensive wrinkles the Steelers showed off, including Ben Roethlisberger flanked out wide in the wildcat, with Le’Veon Bell at quarterback?
Tomlin said those were designed specifically for the Ravens because it’s necessary to show different looks and alignments against division teams that are played twice per season and thus scout the Steelers more extensively than other opponents.
Roethlisberger said during his radio show that the wildcat made him “nervous” because there are more chances for mistakes – in other words, turnovers – when someone other than the quarterback is handling the snap from center.
Following his news conference, Tomlin made his weekly appearance on Sirius/XM NFL Radio and said his defense must be “disciplined” against the Raiders because of quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s ability to throw the deep ball and because of the former Jeannette High star’s “skill set.”
The Steelers have been upset three times by the Raiders in the last seven seasons – in 2006 and 2012 in Oakland and 2009 in Pittsburgh, where Bruce Gradkowski threw three touchdown passes in the final 8 ½ minutes to lead an Oakland rally.
The 2006 and 2012 losses might have ultimately cost the Steelers playoff appearances. They squandered a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of last season’s 34-31 loss, decided by a Sebastian Janikowski field goal as the game ended.
Roethlisberger also said on his radio show his vision was blurred for a few plays after he was struck in the face, much like he was a couple of years ago when his nose was broken in Baltimore by a blow from nose tackle Haloti Ngata.