Mike Tomlin walked over to talk to Larry Foote and Casey Hampton after Sunday’s game but it wasn’t to say goodbye.
“I went over there, I said, ‘Let’s get out of here. What are you guys doing?’” Tomlin said. “They were taking it in. They’re veteran guys. They don’t take any of this for granted, and rightfully so. Obviously, it’s a very fragile business and an ever-changing business that we’re in.”
Their contracts are up, but Tomlin couldn’t and wouldn’t provide any kind of status report on the free agents to be.
Tomlin did provide a summation at his year-end press conference Monday.
“Offensively I thought we started off on the right foot in terms of dominating time of possession and converting third downs. We did what was required in those areas to possess the ball and win football games. Obviously we didn’t ascend in the second half of the season in those areas. It was an Achilles’ heel for us.”
Why didn’t the offense ascend in the second half of the season?
“There were injuries at multiple positions,” he said. “Obviously, we never use injuries as an excuse but we acknowledge that it was a component.”
The opposite occurred for the defense.
“I thought we didn’t start out very well, particularly in situational football and getting off on third downs, and the end of the half and end of the game type of things. I thought we grew into those roles and improved over the course of the season. It was a really good defense in the latter portions of season, particularly in those settings.”
On the special teams, Tomlin recognized the NFL’s 9th-ranked kickoff return team, along with placekicker Shaun Suisham, who converted 28 of 31 field goals (90.3).
Leading the kickoff return unit was rookie Chris Rainey, 7th in the NFL with a 26.5 average per return.
The other special units didn’t fare as well, ranging from 17th (kickoff return defense) to 28th (punt return). Antonio Brown averaged only 6.8 per punt return a year after averaging 10.8.
Tomlin had fired special teams coach Al Everest right before the season and promoted assistant Amos Jones. So Tomlin was asked about the position and he indicated he’s going to add another coach to work with Jones.
In summation, Tomlin said: “We are an 8-8 team. We are on the outside looking in and we don’t feel great about it. As a matter of fact, we dislike it. We are committed to doing what is required for us, in terms of moving forward.”
That initially involves exit interviews with players through the end of the week, and one-on-one meetings with assistant coaches through next week.
On filling the void at offensive line coach, Tomlin said he has no timetable.
“I’ve been gathering information informally,” he said. “I’ll continue to do that in a more formal manner here moving forward.”
On the injury front, Ryan Clark spent Sunday night in a local hospital after suffering “a severe quad contusion.” He’s now “resting comfortably at home.”
Tomlin expects full recoveries from those injured or playing hurt in the last game: Kelvin Beachum (concussion), David DeCastro (“severe stinger”), Cameron Heyward (rib fracture), Brett Keisel (MCL sprain) and Keenan Lewis (MCL sprain).
No timetables have been established for Heath Miller (MCL and ACL reconstruction), DeMarcus Van Dyke (shoulder reconstruction) and Baron Batch (plate inserted into arm).