End-of-season player exit meetings are not something that we are often privy to as outsiders of the football world. Generally, we only get a glimpse into that world when a player is asked by a reporter how the meeting went, if the player is willing to discuss it.
Still, it’s not generally a hard concept to grasp, and we have a pretty good feel by now of how Mike Tomlin and his staff likes to operate, and we see all the game film, so it’s not an overly difficult project to simulate. If we were to administer the end-of-season player exit meetings, it might go something like this.
Player: Ben Tate
Position: Running Back
Experience: 4 Years
Nobody spent less time last year during the season as a Steeler than did Ben Tate, who was signed following the regular season finale in order to give Pittsburgh another option at running back in the playoffs after starter Le’Veon Bell was injured.
After spending his first three seasons in Houston, he signed a free agent contract with the Browns, but was released midway through the season after becoming disgruntled with the workload he was given. He was later picked up elsewhere and released again after three games. He only averaged about three yards per carry during the regular season.
The Steelers didn’t have many options to choose from without Bell. Of course, their original plan B, LeGarrette Blount, became a problem, and was released during the season, as was Tate. Blount was replaced on the roster by undrafted rookie Josh Harris, who only saw a few carries during the regular season.
Despite only being on the roster for less than a week, Tomlin felt more comfortable with the veteran running back going out for the first snap of a playoff game than Harris. Tate was featured on the opening drive until he put the ball on the ground, which was fortunately recovered by the Steelers.
The rest of the game featured a more diverse usage of the Steelers’ three running backs, with Harris receiving the majority of the carries. Tate was in late in pass protection, however, and missed an assignment that contributed to an errant pass that was intercepted, initiating a domino effect of turnovers that sealed Pittsburgh’s fate.
Tate was signed because, by that point of the season, there are simply not very many options to sort from, at just about any position, if you’re not already comfortable with your second option. The fact that he was released twice in the same season should have been an indication.
It seems unlikely that the Steelers would go back to Tate in free agency, though using free agency to find another running back is certainly a strong possibility.
Tate came in with a false reputation for being a good pass protector, and though his struggles with the Steelers were no doubt exacerbated by his lack of experience in the system, his brief showing did not exactly leave one with the desire to see more.