Sports

Tomlin promises changes for stumbling Steelers

PITTSBURGH — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said there will be changes coming to his 5-5-1 team after its lopsided loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

“We just stunk the place up,” he said. “When you play the way that we played and the score is as lopsided as it is, that’s just the reality of it.

“… What you can’t do is continue to do the things that you’ve been doing and expect a different result. We’re open to some schematic changes. We’re open to some personnel changes, obviously. They won’t be drastic in nature, probably more subtle in nature, but hopefully significant. Significant in a positive way.”

Tomlin said the changes will come in both what the Steelers do and who they do it with, using last year’s Week 8 win against the Baltimore Ravens as an example. In that game, the Steelers frequently used a package of three outside linebackers, leaning on their depth at the position.

“It might be the repositioning of people or it might be the leaning on depth as a strength,” Tomlin said of how he could enact change. “We don’t overcomplicate things, but we are open to change when change produces or has a chance to produce a desired outcome.

“When you have red paint, you paint your barn red. That’s kind of a motto or a cliché that we live by at times. That’s what I mean when I’m saying we’re open to change. Is it people and insertion of people? Yes, if it potentially makes us better, but not for the sole purpose of change. It may just mean the alignment or configuration of people in an effort to highlight areas maybe where we have depth and maybe minimize some areas where we don’t.”

Some of those changes will likely be seen up front — on both sides of the ball. Offensive tackle Zach Banner, who spent the first half of the season on injured reserve, has slowly earned more playing time in jumbo packages, and he could be in line to regain the starting spot he lost after tearing his ACL last season. And, on the defensive line, the Steelers signed former Green Bay Packers third-round pick Montravius Adams off the New Orleans Saints practice squad, giving them much-needed depth at nose tackle.

One change that won’t be happening any time soon, though, is the return of defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt, who hasn’t participated in any team drills dating back to training camp. Still recovering from knee surgery, Tuitt remains on IR, and Tomlin didn’t have an update on a timetable for his return.

“He won’t be available to us this week, and so the people that have my attention are those that will be,” Tomlin said. “We’ll continue to monitor his progress, and when he gets close I’ll have an update for you guys.”

After players like Minkah Fitzpatrick said the team needed to change how it practices, suggesting more reps and more up-tempo walk-throughs, Tomlin said they could also utilize pads this week in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Ravens. But Tomlin also declined to say if some players, like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who often misses Wednesday and has been a limited participant in some Thursday practices, specifically needed to get more work in practice.

“Some people need physical work, some people need mental work, some people need to get well,” Tomlin said. “We don’t paint with a broad brush. We make individual decisions that are based on the individual men that put us in position to carry the strongest unit into a stadium on weekends, and that philosophical approach will not change.”

One change, though, that isn’t coming down the pipeline is one suggested by second-year wide receiver Chase Claypool. Speaking Monday, Claypool offered that playing music at practice might be a positive change.

“I think some music would help,” Claypool said. “We had music in the warm-ups and that stuff is fun. People are dancing, having fun, so I think maybe music would make practice a little more fun and a little more up-tempo, that’s my one suggestion but Coach T has been doing this a lot longer than I have.”

Tomlin agreed with Claypool — kind of.

“Claypool plays wideout, and I’ll let him do that,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “I’ll formulate the practice approach. And I think that division of labor is probably appropriate.”

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