NFL from the Sidelines

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O-R Sports reporter Dale Lolley gets you the insider scoop on the NFL.

After hobnobbing around the NFL in the press boxes and sidelines, sports reporter Dale Lolley will let you know the insider scoop. Dale can also be heard on the Steelers radio network pre-game show prior to every game. Follow him on Twitter at dlolleyor.

Tomlin talks, or doesn’t talk, politics

September 26, 2017
The Pittsburgh Steelers players take the field immediately following the playing of the national anthem before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin held his weekly press conference Tuesday, and as you can imagine, much of the 40-minute session was dominated by talk of why the Steelers chose to stay in the tunnel prior to the start of last Sunday’s game at Chicago.

Tomlin added nothing new to that narrative, other than to clear up why he and a handful of his coaches chose to go to midfield - as they usually do - and stand for the anthem.

Tomlin said he chose not to get pulled into a political debate and that he has communication issues with his headsets and other things to take care of before a game begins. So he did what he normally does.

Tomlin did say he gave his coaching staff the choice to stay in the tunnel with the players or go through their typical routine. James Saxon, Mike Munchak and Todd Haley joined him on the sideline.

@ When asked why he chose to “not participate” in any kind of statement, Tomlin simply stated, “I’m like Mike Gundy, I’m grown, I’m 45. Nobody’s making me do anything. Nobody is going to goad me into anything. I love what I do. When I step into a stadium, I’m there to do the job.”

@ As for his players, Tomlin was pretty point blank with his statements there, as well.

He noted that none of his players had before participated in any kind of political statements during pre-game activities. But, as he stated before, some of them didn’t appreciate being called out last Friday by President Donald Trump’s blanket statements about the NFL.

“These guys are football players. They don’t think politics. All they want to do is kick the football off and play. The things happening around them apply pressure to them,” Tomlin said.

“Everybody’s got opinions. Everybody is entitled to them. That’s what makes this country great. There’s nothing wrong with that. We just believe there’s a place and time for it. For us, that’s been in our free time.”

@ Arthur Moats and Ben Roethlisberger both admitted on call-ins to KDKA-FM that the entire issue served as a distraction Saturday night and into Sunday.

Tomlin said dealing with distractions is part of being a professional football player.

“If we are the team we desire to be, there will be even more distractions moving forward,” he said.

Tomlin noted there are plenty of distractions involved with teams playing for championships. And if the Steelers want to be a championship team, they had better learn how to deal with them.

@ The Steelers run defense was an issue on Sunday against Chicago, obviously, but Tomlin said it wasn’t a consistent problem and seemed to largely say the outside linebackers weren’t part of the issue setting the edge against the Bears, suggesting the problem was elsewhere.

That would be with the cornerbacks, particularly Artie Burns, who overran a couple of plays. Ryan Shazier also had some issues and missed some tackles.

It wasn’t a good day for the defense all around.

James Harrison played just three snaps Sunday, but Tomlin didn’t think more of Harrison would have fixed that.

“I don’t know if it was specifically the outside linebacker position that was viewed as an issue in that game,” Tomlin said. “And James speaks to the outside linebacker position. Largely, we gotta do a better job of minimizing the run. I’m not singling out any position and I think a a discussion about his participation or his non-participation does that.”

@ Sean Davis (ankle), Mike Mitchell (hamstring) and Jesse James (shoulder) were new injuries the team is dealing with.

Their participation in next weekend’s game at Baltimore will be determined by how much they practice this week.

Marcus Gilbert (hamstring), T.J. Watt (groin) and Stephon Tuitt (arm) all have a chance to play this week. If I had to guess, I would say all will be available.

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