We’re not at the other 31 training camps taking place this summer. But unless Dan Campbell is literally biting off kneecaps, none of them are more physical than what’s happening at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh’s had an intense start to training camp, best embodied by yesterday’s practice. Despite their preseason opener being just 48 hours away, the team dressed in pads and had multiple, live-tackling sessions. There are some teams who won’t tackle at all in camp, much less right before a game. Not Mike Tomlin or the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tomlin joined Sirius’ Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan and was asked his approach to going all-out in the summer.
“We want to present a atmosphere where these guys can distinguish themselves,” Tomlin told the show. “And so it’s gotta be challenging. The physicality or that element of play is a big component of it. We don’t want to wait until we’re in Canton, Ohio to discover that somebody has an appetite for it.”
Pittsburgh wasted little time finding out who was hungry. The pads came on the first practice they were allowed to after the non-padded, “ramp-up” period mandated by the NFL. That first padded practice including a competitive, tackling run session and backs on ‘backers. A chance to see a guy like Najee Harris compete, even if he didn’t win every single rep.
The same sentiment applies to other rookies like Pat Freiermuth, who has improved his finish and effort throughout camp and even guys on the defensive side of the football, like OLB Jamir Jones, who has impressed early on. Tomlin’s philosophy allows players not to go in “cold” into preseason action, which will hopefully result in less sloppy play. Fewer missed tackles and a tougher, more prepared team.
Tomlin also cited physicality as one of the core components of the game that can’t be ignored or hidden away.
“We want to honor that because we just believe that’s the building block of good football.”
Pittsburgh has been in pads for five of their six padded practices, including the final four leading up to Thursday’s game. Tomorrow, they’ll put the pads and step into someone else’s stadium for the first time. And play 60 minutes of tackle football.