The Pittsburgh Steelers are now in Latrobe at Saint Vincent College, where they have held their training camp sessions since 1966. While the vast majority of the legwork of building the 90-man roster is done, there is always some fine tinkering to do. Now it’s time to figure out who is worthy of a roster spot, and what their role will be.
The team made some bold moves this offseason and in some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago. That would especially be the case at wide receiver and inside linebacker, where they’re bound to have new starters.
How will those position groups sort themselves out? How will the young players advance into their expected roles? Will the new coaches be up to the task? Who is looking good in practice? Who is sitting out due to injury?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Will Mike Tomlin have an active hand in coaching the wide receivers?
Yesterday was largely a day for remembering Darryl Drake, both the coach and the man. We heard a number of eulogies from around the NFL among those whose lives he touched in some form or fashion. Not everybody agreed with it (to make an understatement), but I tried to pay my respects to the man as well.
But practice resumes today, and with that comes some questions of a very practical nature. Put simply, there are 11 wide receivers on this roster—who is going to be coaching them today? Who is going to be coaching them next week, or next month, or in December?
The Steelers have William Gay in this year as a coaching intern working with the wide receivers, but he is obviously not going to take over the position on his own. This is his first exposure to coaching, as he had only just retired in the first place. There are assistants like Matt Symmes and Blaine Stewart, of course.
Then there is Mike Tomlin, who was a wide receiver during his playing days. He began his coaching career on the offensive side of the ball. He has told the story before about how he was advised to move to the defensive side because that side of the field provided more opportunities for upward mobility for African-American coaches.
Will he be an active, on-field instructor or teacher in the classroom for the wide receivers this season in the wake of Drake’s passing, either in the very immediate future or even throughout the length of the season? It’s not terribly common that a coach dies suddenly just before or in the middle of a season, so there isn’t a ton of precedent, and it’s hard to think about hiring a new coach right now for obvious reasons.