After coming before the media to bury his still undefeated Steelers for sloppy play moments after Wednesday’s 19-14 win over what was left of the Ravens, Mike Tomlin opened his weekly news conference less than 24 hours later with some praise for his players – at least a few of them.
“I can’t say enough about the individual efforts of Benny Snell, particularly his run demeanor at the end of the game,” began Tomlin, insinuating that Snell often didn’t get a lot of help from the offensive line.
“That was a guy who was really competing but doing the fundamental things that you need a guy at his position to do,” Tomlin continued, “he took care of the ball and showed situational awareness, staying in bounds when he was along the sideline.”
Snell carried 4 straight times for 23 yards and 2 first downs as the Steelers killed the final 2-and-a-half minutes on the clock. Snell, who was the feature back in the absence of James Conner, finished with 60 yards rushing on 16 carries plus 33 yards on 3 catches for 93 yards from scrimmage in all.
Tomlin did have praise for back-up center JC Hassenauer who found out last minute he’d be filling the Pro Bowl shoes of Maurkice Pouncey. “He played every snap on short notice and really doing a good job particularly from an assignment standpoint, not only his but ours in terms of communicating with others.”
Not knowing when Conner and Pouncey will come off the COVID list, Tomlin may have to depend on those two players again Monday against Washington.
Although the receivers combined for anywhere from 6-10 drops depending on whether you are a tough grader, Tomlin singled out Eric Ebron, JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington for combat catches; Washington’s 16 yard catch in traffic on 3rd-and-6 with 2:36 left may have saved the game.
As for his defense, “I thought we really came out of the locker room,” Tomlin said. “Often times when you’re waiting a number of days like we did that’s worrisome (but) we made splash plays early,” meaning Steven Nelson’s TFL on a 3-and-out, Vince Williams’ fumble recovery (which should have led to at least 3 points) then Joe Haden’s pick-6 on Baltimore’s third series.
Although Tomlin is still steamed about Robert Griffin III’s 39-yard keeper on a 3rd-and-11 and that 70-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter, the defense still came up with the 2 turnovers, 3 sacks, and 8 other tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The Steelers lead the NFL with 41 sacks, 23 takeaways (16 interceptions) and – most importantly – points allowed. But Tomlin’s praise only goes so far.
“There’s something to be learned from negative performances and it’s cool to learn with a win,” Tomlin said, “Nevertheless, there are still some things there to be learned. So we like to pause in (Wednesday’s sloppy win) and dwell in it if you will.”