The nature and significance of the conversations that were had within the Pittsburgh Steelers’ facility last week will vary depending upon whom you ask about it. Head coach Mike Tomlin has seemed to downplay some of what went on as business as usual. 16 years in, perhaps it is for him, but some players expressed a greater impact.
As you may have observed, the Steelers have struggled this season, sitting at 2-6 going into the bye week, and there have been questions about cohesion within the locker room and other aspects of the team. Offensive lineman Kevin Dotson shared his own take on those meetings, as shared on the team’s website, via Teresa Varley.
“It was eye-opening for some people,” she quotes Dotson as saying about those meetings. “Some people we already knew what it was, it just had to be said out loud. Once we cleared the air on everything, cleared up anything anyone was uncomfortable with, coaches did too.”
In other words, it wasn’t just coach-to-player conversations, but player-to-player conversations taking place as well—and before the coaches got into it. And he said that Tomlin then stepped in and “opened the air up for everybody”.
“He could feel the rooms weren’t too cohesive. Now we started meeting as a whole offensive unit watching film instead of separately. We’ll watch it separately, but we’ll watch it as an offensive team, defensive team watch theirs, so we can see where everybody is coming from.”
I don’t know what is customary in Pittsburgh or around the league, but I’m confident this is not the first time Tomlin has ever had all of the offense watch film together. It would be nice to have a broader context—you know, something that Tomlin could give but would not.
In fact, when he was asked about comments that players made, he simply said, “We just did what you do during the bye week. You focus on getting better.” He did go on a spiel about being “open to change” when he was asked about Najee Harris’ comments about the feeling he was seeing a different approach.
How a coach perceives it versus how a player perceives it, however, doesn’t matter. It’s how it affects the individual. For at least some players, whatever took place seemed to have an impact on them, presumably for the better.
Their first game after the bye did result in a win, albeit over the New Orleans Saints. What transpires over the course of the next couple of weeks will be more illuminated as to the effects of whatever changes might have been made during the break and whether they have any kind of staying power.