As a Steeler fan, if you know anything about Mike Tomlin, you know not to read into his comments. He says what he says and that’s that. Trying to analyze his statements can make your head spin so it’s best not to try it very often unless you’re jonesin’ for a couple of Excedrin. He’s a straight shooter who won’t tell you anymore than he feels you need to know. By those rights you would think you need to try and over analyze but it’s best to take what he says and then watch things unfold over time. Sure it’s fun to think about, I’m as guilty as anyone with that, but keeping perspective is a big part of keeping your sanity during training camp and preseason.
As we saw today at the press conference after the annual run test at St. Vincent College. @CBSSportsNFLPIT: Tomlin didnt say who would line up with the 1s at position-battle spots Thur, added:”You might see some surprises; dont read 2 much into it” – that tweet came to us from our good friend Chuck Finder at CBS Sports who along with Chris Adamski @BuzzsawPGH will be among those at camp giving out daily updates.
Anyways, training camp is about learning who is ready to play what position. It’s about putting guys in the right situation so they can excel and best help the team. It’s also about testing them in situations they aren’t used to so they can grow. The best way to find that out is by lining players up in different ways with the 1st and 2nd team to see who will stand out, who is versatile, and who may still need more work before taking on a prominent role on the team, etc.
By prominent I mean a starting role, but since we’re talking Steelers here, every position is important because injuries are so frequent. You better have good depth everywhere because it will be tested at some point, guaranteed, every season. Like last year, we saw both starting linebackers go down, the starting QB, NT, DE, RB, and every position on the offensive line. If that doesn’t test your depth, nothing will. So by putting rookies and veterans alike in with different groups of players, you see where someone’s strengths and weaknesses are and you build your team accordingly.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you’ll see Lamarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu running with the 2nd team very often. You will however see second team players running with them at times. There’s a difference.
For example: you will likely see both David DeCastro and Mike Adams run with the first team at times, in camp and in preseason as well. You’ll see both of them run with the second team as well. That doesn’t mean they are both going to start or not start in week 1 of the regular season. You may see Keenan Lewis start at CB one day and Curtis Brown the next. The same can be said for Steve McLendon at NT and rookie Alameda Ta’amu. The list goes on and on, so don’t read too much into who’s starting any given day during camp.
Another example, both James Harrison and Jason Worilds are on the PUP list to start camp. Other players will fill in for awhile but nobody believes that Harrison won’t start in week 1 if he’s healthy.
In preseason, you’ll see all 3 young cornerbacks getting a chance to start the game most likely. The same goes for the rookie offensive lineman, defensive lineman, running backs, etc. You only get so many reps with 90 players on the roster so spreading the opportunities around is a priority for the coaching staff. On top of all that you want to get your high profile players significant reps as well. So yeah, everything changes all the time.
The times you’ll really see these scenarios come into play is with the positions that are truly up for grabs: There are open starting positions at NT, CB, OG, OT, P, & PK. Really as far as the reserves go, just about every position is up for grabs by those who want it the most and are up to the task.
Enjoy training camp for what it is, a time to celebrate your team being back on the field and working towards the Stairway to 7. As we go through these next few weeks, don’t stress over who’s running with who on any given day. It will work itself out.