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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tuesday with Tomlin

While Brandon Boykin confirmed Monday that he had worked as the nickel corner with the first-team defense here, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, not wanting to tip his hand, would only say that Boykin is under "strong consideration" for more playing time this week against San Francisco.

Tomlin was asked today why Boykin didn't play last week against New England, as the team went with William Gay, Antwon Blake and Cortez Allen against the Patriots.

He simply replied, "We chose to go with other guys."

That explanation won't satisfy, well, anyone, but Tomlin doesn't have to divulge his reasons, either.

It could have been a myriad of things. But most notably, it shouldn't have surprised anyone. Boykin got very little work with the No. 1 nickel unit in the preseason because he hadn't beaten any of those guys out. There were some thoughts he was dealing with a minor, nagging injury.

Now, after last week's game, Tomlin has reason to make a move. Like it or not, this is typically how the Steelers work.

They rarely just move a guy out of a starting spot because they think someone else might be better. I can only think of it happening a couple of times since I've covered the team.

One was Ryan Shazier last season. The other was Jarvis Jones in 2013.

Shazier started from the opening day of OTAs over Vince Williams, while Jones was inserted as a co-starter with Jason Worilds.

Other first-round picks, star rookies or even free agents had to earn their spots. Boykin got a late start coming in a week into training camp. It wasn't out of character for the Steelers to start the guys who had been here longer.

* Tomlin noted that the Steelers pass rushers had better be ready to keep San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick in the pocket this week.

Kaepernick scrambled seven times for 41 yards against Minnesota Monday night, converting some of those runs on third down into first downs.

The 49ers also ran the ball well with Carlos Hyde. This will be a game to break out the big boy pads.

* Conversely, Tomlin also noted that the 49ers stuffed Adrian Peterson, limiting him to 31 yards on 10 carries.

San Francisco's line dominated the Vikings. The Steelers had better be prepared to attack the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

* Depth chart change: Will Allen is now officially listed as the starter at strong safety and Tomlin said Shamarko Thomas needs to be better "above the shoulders."

The Steelers aren't giving up on Thomas by any stretch. But he's struggling with some of the new concepts he's being asked to play.

* At right cornerback, it lists Cortez Allen or Blake as the starter. Allen was listed as the starter last week, but Blake actually started.

I thought Allen - who got called for a terrible pass interference penalty - had a better game than Blake last week, but it was very close.


datruth4life said...

Dale, at this point, I think Cortez just needs something good to happen for him on the field. And I don't think the team traded a 5th round pick away to get Boykins for him to be an ornament on the sidelines. He's a proven playmaker at CB. Get him on the field. I also think Toddman is going to take a helmet away from Dri Archer, if not more, when Bell comes back after this game. He's a better RB, better KR, better pass protector and better special teams player than Dri. Dri might be a better receiver but who can tell definitively since Dri usually heads to the sidelines whenever he has the ball in his hands anyways. I'm not saying release him straight out when Bell comes off suspension, but someone needs to light a fire under him to let him know that his job and his livelihood is at stake if he doesn't turn it up a notch.

datruth4life said...

Might just be time for Dri to move to the WR room.

ibygeorge said...

Any injury update? Ben was seen limping at one point in the game. I'm sure if he can play with a broken nose, he can connect with AB with a limp. Hines W. Said AB needed 15 attempts in that game. Do you agree?

ibygeorge said...

Any injury update? Ben was seen limping at one point in the game. I'm sure if he can play with a broken nose, he can connect with AB with a limp. Hines W. Said AB needed 15 attempts in that game. Do you agree?

Dale Lolley said...

Ben got stepped on. Didn't leave the game. He's fine.

A.B. probably should and usually does get 10-15 attempts per game.

snarky said...

My biggest gripe with Allen's play was him not noticing a fumble at his feet that Mintchell forced.

Anonymous said...

I'm most nervous about Hyde. Having watched him all the time with the Buckeyes, he gets stronger as the game goes on and wears down the defense. We need to put up a lot of points early to make the 49ers throw it late rather than feeding Hyde the entire 4th quarter.

marc said...

question for everyone - who is the most important player on the steelers defense?

not most valuable or best player, but most important. i'm interested to see what people think.

Anonymous Brian said...

Defining "important" as "they better be good, or there'll be trouble all year," I'd say it's a tie:

* Jarvis Jones

* Someone in the secondary (Shamarko, C. Allen, Mitchell?), anyone, has to be an above average NFL player.

The PI call on C. Allen should have been a no-call but I thought he looked as bad as Blake. Also got dragged around a few yards by Edelman, who more tackled him than the other way around, too, not a good look...

marc said...

i thought the PI call should have been offensive. the WR initiated contact with his stiff arm of allen earlier in the route and maintained contact the entire time, and then the two got tangled near the end of the play. i thought it was a very poor call and hope the ref got docked for it in their weekly reviews.

Noel said...

I would argue Heyward is the most important player. Tuitt is just good at this point, far from the Aaron Smith level we're all hoping for, and there is no depth there. Losing Heyward would have the worst ripple effect across the defense. On third downs I think he affects where opposing teams will try and run, how they will block up on pass protection. No other position has that great of a drop off and his teammates obviously key off him (as indicated by his captaincy). I like all of our linebackers but they need a mean, tough guy up front wreaking havoc for them to be effective. A few tipped balls or panicked throws could be the result. Without Heyward I think we see a lot more picking and choosing from opposing QBs and we all know that ain't gonna end well.

marc said...

imo, most important player is mcclendon (or whoever plays interior DL if playing 4-3).

in the passing game, without dominating interior of the line, it's too easy for offenses to pick up blitzes or double outside rushers. the trickle down effect is the lack of QB pressure and greater time for receivers to get open. for an already suspect secondary, that's just too much to handle.

in the rushing game, if an offense doesn't need to double-team inside, that leaves an extra blocker at their disposal. while i thought the steelers LBers played well, it was too easy for lewis to get through the line of scrimmage and he ended up having a nice game on limited carries.

marc said...

amazing stats regarding steelers rush defense. casey hampton's last 4 years they ranked 5, 1, 9, and 4 respectively in yards per rush attempt. the last two years they have ranked 21st and 25th respectively. certainly, his absence is not the sole reason for the "fall off the cliff" decline, but still significant.

adamg said...

The defense was effective with Chris Hoke at NT, too, when Hampton missed most of one season. Hoke was the antithesis of Hampton as a NT. McLendon is probably closer to Hoke than Hampton so he probably needs to work on his quickness rather than just brute strength like Hampton.

But, I agree if the Steelers are to continue to play a 3-4 (which I'm not sure they will), they really do need a dominating NT. Everything in that defense flows off having one. That's why I was little surprised they didn't at least kick the tires on Louis Nix.

marc said...

even if they play a 4-3 the majority of the time, the interior DL (at least 1 of them) has to be dominant, must require a double team. i said it after the 2013 season (i think) and i stand by it, until they get a true run stuffing DL inside, the defense will struggle.

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