It’s not in the nature of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to feed media hype. Generally, the more spin a story is getting, the more Tomlin tends to downplay it.
Not when it comes to the team’s ongoing study of this year’s draft-eligible quarterbacks, though. During NFL owners meetings interviews, Tomlin went so far as to dub his own travels to various pre-draft workouts as “quarterback weekend.”
Then he gushed about how much he enjoys the “anxiety” surrounding long-term QB “uncertainty” in Pittsburgh for the first time since Ben Roethlisberger was drafted in 2004.
“I’m probably energized in the real positive way,” Tomlin said Monday. “I like the anxiety associated with professional uncertainty. We’ve got to acknowledge that. We’re in a different space. Hopefully, that brings the best out in all of us.”
Oh, there’s energy in Pittsburgh surrounding the topic, Mike. That’s clear. It’s pretty much all anyone has been talking about since Roethlisberger said his final goodbyes.
And anxiety? Yeah, for a large portion of the Steelers fan base, that’s a pretty fair description.
Maybe not “anxiety” featuring the sort of positive undercurrent Tomlin exuded with his quote. More of the old-fashioned, fingernail-biting flop sweat associated with a group of people that is hard-selling itself on the notion that Mitch Trubisky is the answer.
For as much as Tomlin is embracing and advancing the quarterback conversation along with the fans and media, there may be a few underlying motives.
The “anxiety” and “professional uncertainty” he is pushing will surely be felt by Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins, perhaps sharpening their level of competition and attention to detail even more.
Also, the non-stop focus on which quarterback the Steelers may draft deflects attention away from the level of interest in any non-QB first-round candidates they have in mind.
Not that I’m suggesting the pre-draft quarterback interest is a full-blown, intentional smokescreen. I think it’s genuine.
But if more teams are inclined to gobble up all the quarterbacks early for fear that the Steelers may move up to get one, that’ll leave more players at other positions available by pick No 20.
Not a bad potential outcome.
Another residual benefit of Tomlin allowing himself to bask in the spotlight of quarterback uncertainty is less focus spent on how many questions still exist about his roster.
Beyond Trubisky, for as much praise as the Steelers got for spending a little more money and being more active than the franchise normally is in the first few days of free agency, they didn’t exactly fill a lot of the team’s holes with sure- fire, frontline starters.
James Daniels? Safe. He’s a real nice addition at guard. Myles Jack could be inside linebacker. Or, like Joe Schobert, he could be the second Jacksonville Jaguars inside linebacker the Steelers have acquired based on who he used to be, as opposed to who he still is. At least some of his analytics suggest that could be the case.
Is Mason Cole the new starting center displacing Kendrick Green for good? Or is he just a better BJ Finney-type backup interior lineman?
Is Levi Wallace going to buffer the loss of Joe Haden at cornerback or remind us of Artie Burns? Genard Avery feels like a poor man’s Arthur Moats. And let’s hope we don’t ever call Gunner Olszewski a poor man’s Ryan Switzer. But I’ll save my judgment.
The point is, in free agency, the Steelers got lots of guys. Yet, aside from likely Daniels and potentially Jack, I’m not sure how many true difference makers they acquired.
However, if all we’re talking about is Trubisky-versus-Rudolph-
Or maybe nobody else notices that the team is now down three receivers. Backup running back has not been addressed. Tackle still looks thin.
Defensive line depth is still a question. It will be until we know what’s going on with Stephon Tuitt. I’ve still got concerns about cornerback. And they aren’t counting on Karl Joseph to be the other safety next to Minkah Fitzpatrick, are they?
But, circa 1999 (or 1985), who is going to be talking about any of that when there is a three or four-man derby at quarterback?
“We’ve got capable guys that are the good guys,” Tomlin said of his quarterbacks. “We’re really transparent in terms of how we do business and so it’s not something that’s a worrisome proposition for me to be honest with you. It’s something that I’m excited about watching develop; those guys compete and sort themselves out. Like I am in any other position where we have capable guys vying for reps.”
I’d question how capable some of those guys are at certain positions. And I’ll question how much any of us will be paying attention if the Steelers’ quarterback depth chart is the current three-headed monster plus one more who may be selected in the first round.
As for all of us being “anxious” about that (while Tomlin pays attention to everything else), well, maybe that’s exactly how he likes it.
Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at email@example.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.