Coaches coach. Players play. That’s the antiquated way of thinking. For the best units, the best teams, the best organizations, veteran players don’t just do their job. They help the younger guys learn theirs too. Mike Tomlin credited three veteran Steelers’ DBs, Joe Haden, Cam Sutton, and Minkah Fitzpatrick for bringing along second-year cornerback James Pierre.
Tomlin appeared on his weekly Mike Tomlin Show with Bob Pompeani to discuss the job those guys have done mentoring teammates.
“Guys like Joe Haden have been really significant and Cam Sutton have been really significant in terms of the development of James Pierre,” Tomlin told Pompeani. “As a matter of fact, I know he spends quite a bit of time in the offseason living and training with Minkah, for example.”
Fitzpatrick said as much, as we wrote about, in a recent appearance on the Pat McAfee Show.
“We have a couple new guys, Tre Norwood, James Pierre—he’s a year-two guy, played for us a little bit last year, that’s playing for us. Couple of new guys we got in camp. I think I’m definitely at the point where I’m taking them under my wing”.
That’s a smart, proven group of guys to learn from. The collective football IQ of Haden, Sutton, and Fitzpatrick is off the charts. Haden’s the elder statesman of the secondary. Sutton and Fitzpatrick still have their youth, 26 and 24 respectively, but their awareness of film study make them impact players.
Tomlin credited that team-first mentality as a big reason why cornerbacks like Pierre, who had an outstanding camp, are developing.
“The brotherhood that we have within our unit as a defense and our football team, I can’t say enough about. They aid us tremendously in terms of the development of individual players. And I think about those guys specifically, when I think about the growth and development of James Pierre.
“Those veteran corners in that secondary, they’ve done an awesome job of putting their hand in the pile and making sure that he’s growing and reinforcing the things that we know are important. That they know are important due to their experience in the game. They share that urgency with him. And that allows all our young guys to grow in a big way.”
Pittsburgh’s had a major issue developing corners and safeties throughout the years. Perhaps it’s no coincidence the Steelers started getting better results when they added a veteran guy like Haden, brought in right before the 2017 season. Suddenly, players like Mike Hilton and Cam Sutton emerged while guys like Fitzpatrick took off once they arrived on scene. And an undrafted player like Pierre has begun to look like someone with starting potential.
Considering how many DBs put their hand in the pile in Week One’s win over the Buffalo Bills, seven of them logging 10+ snaps, that mentorship is paying off. A rising tide lifts all boats. And it’s making for one of the fiercest defenses in football.