By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — The Pittsburgh Steelers ended nearly three training camp weeks Thursday the same way it began, with a press conference by Mike Tomlin, and the fourth-year head coach discussed various topics heading into the club’s second preseason game with the New York Giants Saturday at 7 p.m. in the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
The main thing Tomlin wanted to accomplish during camp was to finish strong, not coast into this weekend, because much more must be accomplished at home. The Steelers leave for New Jersey Friday and begin preparation for the final two preseason games Monday at the UPMC Sports Complex.
“It’s just due diligence,” Tomlin said. “It’s something that you think about or at least you concern yourself with a little bit as a coach during this time of year because when you change location and change routine it’s a natural human response that you’re shifting focus, and I just want to make sure our team understands that we’re not shifting focus.
“We are when we come back from this game going to be in Pittsburgh. We are going to be working out of our facility. We are going to lose some of the things that encompass training camp but we’re still very much in the development of our football team, and our goals and focus remains the same, determining who the 53 are and the roles within them.”
Something that usually develops during training camp is competition between players at certain positions. While some players might not handle it well, Tomlin relishes it and even embraces it.
“It makes my job easier,” Tomlin said. “I think that’s the truest motivator. These guys have competed all of their lives. That’s why they’re here. When you pit those guys against one another in competitive situations, that’s what makes them go.”
Tomlin noted that the Steelers starters should play about 24 snaps, but that number isn’t set in stone. And he said he hasn’t set the rotation yet for the quarterbacks, but Ben Roethlisberger is expected to start. Then, Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon will complete it. Charlie Batch said he probably won’t play.
Tomlin did say that Justin Hartwig would be the starting center, while Maurkice Pouncey will rotate in with the first team. Also, tackle Jonathan Scott could get a look with the first team at right tackle where he has been playing behind veteran Flozell Adams at right tackle.
“It’s been no secret that coming into the offseason, Willie Colon was our right tackle,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got some guys that are working hard, so we want to see them.”
Tomlin also noted that second-year cornerbacks Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnett will get more time in the secondary.
“I think that Keenan Lewis has had a really good camp and showing that he’s maybe prepared to take the next step as a second-year guy,” Tomlin said.
“He was put in some interesting situations last week against a quality, quality receiver in Calvin Johnson. So, we’re just going to continue to give him looks and exposure and if he makes enough plays and gets our attention we’ll consider playing him (more).”
Tomlin added that Lewis’ strong play could only help strengthen the Steelers’ secondary, but not affect Bryant McFadden.
“(McFadden) is doing a rock solid job,” Tomlin said. “He’s re-acclimating himself to being here and how we do things. We like B-Mac. We like the way not only that he plays but works and the kind of teammate that he is. That’s why we brought him back.”
What more could the Steelers accomplish at this point?
“(We’re) just looking for growth and development from our guys,” Tomlin said. “We’re going to challenge some guys in new and different ways. Some guys, we’ll want to see more of the same that we saw in the first game. Some guys we’re going to ask to do some new and different things.
“We’re going to ask Daniel Sepulveda to kick the ball off. We’re going to have Antonio Brown returning punts and kicks where primarily his focus was offense a week ago. We’re going to play Ben this week at quarterback. We have some exciting things that we’re on the cusp of here, but it’s just part of the process, a second time for us to play inside of a stadium.”
Tomlin noted that outside linebacker Jason Worilds should get more work this week, after missing last week’s game, but running back Jonathan Dwyer is listed as doubtful. Dwyer has missed two of the three camp weeks with injuries.
“The reality is he’s not on the field, so he’s not helping himself,” Tomlin said.
Dwyer had six carries for eight yards against the Detroit Lions, so he didn’t help himself in that game, either.