Tomlin Not Thinking About Positional Flexibility During Rookie Minicamp

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2023 draft class was highlighted by versatility. Or at least its potential. Second-round NT Keeanu Benton’s frame to play up and down the line. Fourth-round linebacker Nick Herbig to move inside or stay on the outside with athleticism that can move him around a defensive front. Seventh-round cornerback Cory Trice Jr.’s potential tight end-erasing ability with fellow seventh-round offensive lineman Spencer Anderson, who could line at all five spots.

While all that remains true, Mike Tomlin wasn’t worried about those things during the team’s three-day, rookie minicamp, which concluded Sunday. The introductory weekend was to lay the groundwork and get a cast of wide-eyed rookies adjusted to the NFL.

Speaking with reporters Saturday, Tomlin said it was too early to discuss position flexibility with any of their players. 

“We’re not even there yet, to be honest with you,” he said via the team’s YouTube channel. “They’ll be primary jobs and roles and they gotta establish themselves in that area first and then we add to it. And on an introductory weekend like this, it’s just not a lot of latitude for some of that. And so it’s more establishing a home base and working from there.”

That’s typical with what the Steelers – and probably most NFL teams – have done for years. Before overloading rookies with information about different positions and roles, they have to learn one. And once they understand that and the foundations of Pittsburgh’s playbook, then they can begin moving around.

It’s not as if rookie minicamp practices allow much time for flexibility anyway. They’re shorter sessions, under two hours, with much of that time dedicated to individual and skeleton work, not team drills where players can showcase that versatility. Of course, some of that could still be accomplished in individual work, putting players in different groups, but it’s something the Steelers will think about in OTAs and training camp, not a player’s first couple of NFL practices.

While Tomlin preached patience, the Steelers in recent years have sped up the process. In past seasons, Pittsburgh would largely keep their offensive linemen in the same spot for the first week of training camp. More recently, the team has begun to shift players around within that first week. And it is an important aspect of making the team for several of these rookies. For Anderson, he’ll have to show he’s capable of playing at more than one spot in order to make the Steelers’ 53. If Trice can do more than play corner, he’ll have far better odds of seeing the 53. And Herbig is an interesting chess piece who may not survive as a full-time EDGE, meaning he’ll have to function off-ball.

Still, there’s a time and a place for that. And it wasn’t this past weekend. Instead, it’s something to watch for throughout the rest of the offseason and into the summer.

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