The Mike Tomlin phrase of the year is….?
That’s the term he’s used over and over during this year’s press conferences, no longer just one that separates a good punt from a bad one. And it’s what he’s looking for in Thursday’s finale against the Carolina Panthers.
Even though most of the roster is set, there are still battles for the 53 man roster and definitely for the practice squad. The last game, despite most tuning it out, is a final chance to catch the coaching staff’s attention.
At yesterday’s press conference, Tomlin pointed to a pair of players who’ve done that.
“I remember Stefan Logan a number of years back,” Tomlin said. “Returned a punt in the first quarter of the game. He excited us and had some big returns in prior games leading up to that. Had been to midfield on a couple kickoff returns I think against Washington a couple weeks prior. We gave him punt returns duties in that game and I think the very first one he took back 80 yards. It was one of those moments where you knew.”
That was in 2009. We covered Stefan Logan’s path last week on the site after Trey Williams generated noise. It’s further proof of the need to be versatile and why Williams returning one punt wasn’t enough. Hopefully, he’ll get a shot in the finale though his odds of being the next Logan are slim.
Tomlin also mentioned Jordan Dangerfield as a more recent example.
“I thought Dangerfield was a guy who really seized the moment a year ago in this football game. I thought he displayed varsity like work. That’s a term we’ve been using in team development this year.”
That day, Dangerfield led the team with ten total tackles. Now, he’s a lock to make the team and saw playtime on defense in 2016.
Roosevelt Nix is another good example, though his supposed may have been sewn up before the final game. He blocked a punt in 2015 against the Panthers, compelling the team to carry two fullbacks that year. He’s stuck ever since.
It’s why, and I don’t mean to get on my soapbox here, the decision to avoid the roster cutdown to 90 was a smart one. Players have a chance to get noticed, either here or elsewhere. Game reps can’t be replicated and the fourth game provides the most snaps for those at the end of the roster.