Coach Mike Tomlin said the Steelers will not put a greater emphasis on trying to win preseason games despite what happened in 2013 when they started with eight consecutive losses.
But Tomlin did acknowledge he wants his players – veterans and rookies – to play faster and with greater urgency when the Steelers open the preseason Saturday night against the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J.
“What we’re looking for the first time out is really quite simple – I want the group to play fast, I want them to play with the urgency that’s required to play winning football in a stadium setting,” Tomlin said today during a morning news conference at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe. “At this stage of the journey, we’ll see where we are. What’s paramount is we play fast, we play hard and we play with urgency.”
The Steelers went winless in four preseason games in 2013, then followed that by starting the regular season 0-4. It was only the third time since 1970 that the Steelers went winless in the preseason.
In each instance – 1987, 2006, 2013 -- the Steelers won only eight games during the regular season.
Several players said they have already talked about starting the preseason strong and putting an emphasis on winning. But Tomlin downplayed some of that following a morning practice.
“The things we’re doing this year are geared toward building this football team,” Tomlin said. “I don’t reference last year or any season, for that matter. This is a different group. I acknowledge this group needs to start fast and play with the type of urgency that’s required to win, and those will be our intentions. Those will always be our intentions when we play.”
Tomlin said he doesn’t know if several players who have not practiced, including No. 1 draft choice Ryan Shazier, will play against the Giants.
In addition to Shazier, who has missed the past two practices with a right knee injury, the list includes outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (groin), nose tackle Steve McLendon (concussion), wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (concussion), and two rookie draft choices – inside linebacker Jordan Zumwalt and tight end Rob Blanchflower.
“We’ll wait till the 11th hour whether or not to play them,” Tomlin said. “Our goal is to get full participation and get those guys off to a good start, show what they’re capable of and move forward with the developmental process of the team.”
Tomlin did not say how long he will play his starters against the Giants, but indicated the amount could vary with different players.
“Our goal is to give these guys what we deem it is they need or what it is we need to see from them,” Tomlin said. “It will be different things for different people.”
Gerry Dulac: firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter: @gerrydulac First Published August 7, 2014 12:00 AM