There are two things that have become extremely clear through the first week plus of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Training Camp. Mike Tomlin is pushing physicality and he is forging a new paradigm with the Steelers in general.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette pointed out that Tomlin has had the Steelers tackling more in practice than any time under his reign. In fact, according to Bouchette, they haven’t seen this type of physical practicing since the Chuck Noll days.
So what exactly is Tomlin’s agenda? It isn’t necessarily that different from last year in terms of game strategy if you think about it. With an aging defense, the offense shortened up the passing game and wanted to return to the running game in an effort to take time off the clock and rest the defense. For the first half of the season, the passing game was there but the running game was much too inconsistent.
It’s obvious to me that this plan of attack is being deployed again but with a more direct approach to the running game. At the same time, the increased tackling in practice also will benefit the defense in Tomlin’s eyes especially with a number of young guys needing as much full-contact action as possible.
There is one clear difference in the offensive approach this year and that’s the addition of Le’Veon Bell who could, and I stress could, be the right running back for Tomlin’s master plan.
There were several games last season where being able to run the ball late in games could have been the difference between 8-8 and 10-6. I’m not advocating more running as much as am I’m suggesting the Steelers need better running. Bell could very well be the hammer needed.
The other thing Tomlin is addressing with the extra tackling is attitude.
Last week when Chris from Bleacher Report joined me on The Blitz podcast, he said there was a very obvious change in the air at St. Vincent’s this year compared to seasons’ past. More stretching, more technique work and more aggression.
That tells me that Mike Tomlin is telling his team in no uncertain teams that this team will return to being physical and being what the Pittsburgh Steelers tradition has been built upon.
There is a dark side to this shift in strategy though and that means a greater risk of injury. Fortunately, we haven’t seen too many serious injuries with the exception of rookie Nik Embernate.
I think Mike Tomlin took last year quite personally and he is already making aggressive moves to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.