If you’re like me, you couldn’t wait for the Pittsburgh Steelers to wrap up their Monday training camp practice so that head coach Mike Tomlin could be asked about comments made by outside linebackers coach Joey Porter earlier in the day.
As expected, Tomlin was asked about Porter essentially saying that Bud Dupree and rookie T.J. Watt would be the team’s two starters once the regular season gets underway and that they’ll not rotate. He also said that veteran James Harrison would effectively be used as a “relief pitcher”.
So, is that in fact the plan?
“I’ll let him address all those bold statements regarding rotations,” Tomlin said. “You guys aren’t sucking me into those waters.”
If you remember, Porter has a history when it comes to saying too much about possible player snap counts and which player is likely going to start over another one ahead of a season getting underway. Remember him saying that Harrison would be on a pitch count a few years ago and the stir that created?
On Monday, Tomlin was asked point-blank how many snaps per game he plans on giving Harrison this season and his response wasn’t overly surprising.
“As many as he can handle,” Tomlin said. “As many as I prescribe and I’m on the fence about what that number is.”
Tomlin was later asked where Harrison has been the last few days as he’s apparently not been visible at practice.
“We’ve got an alternate program for those guys in their late 30s,” Tomlin quipped.
Additionally, Tomlin was asked why Watt wasn’t involved in team reps on Monday.
“We’re just finding ways to highlight others,” Tomlin said. “Like we’ve mentioned out here, sometimes one person’s misfortune creates opportunities for others. Well, T.J. hasn’t had any misfortune, he’s absorbed a lot of reps, so sometimes we’ll phase him out, or back a little bit, and provide other opportunities for other guys. It’s just very much part of team development. Nothing to report there.”
The Steelers did sign rookie undrafted free agent outside linebacker Austin Gearing on Monday and Tomlin was asked if that move was related to the team currently having shorter lines at that position group due to several minor injuries. Friday night, in fact, the Steelers only had three outside linebackers healthy enough to play in their preseason opener against the New York Giants and they were Watt, veteran Arthur Moats and Farrington Huguenin.
“I’m sure Arthur doesn’t mind and T.J. doesn’t mind, but yeah, we had to fortify the depth there and the young man we had in rookie mini, so he’s familiar with us and were familiar with him,” Tomlin explained.
The Steelers will be off on Tuesday and will then close out their 2017 training camp with three consecutive practices starting Wednesday.