PITTSBURGH — The two-minute drill is one of the most important situational moments in football. Kenny Pickett and Connor Heyward, two rookies, were able to get their first taste of what a two-minute drill can feel like at the NFL level at minicamp on Tuesday. Heyward and Pickett both confirmed their first time doing the two-minute drills, and it was one where they both felt good about. For Pickett, especially, it was a learning experience, and the young quarterback is all about lessons at this point in his career.
“First time doing the two-minute drill, that felt good,” Pickett said. “I always try to prepare and feel comfortable out here as I operate. It was the first time for a lot of those guys. It was solid, but obviously, the finish wasn’t ideal. But I thought it was good.”
The highlight of the drive for Pickett was a pass to Heyward over the middle of the field that resulted in a sweet, one-haded catch. It was a tough, tilt-a-whirl catch that Heyward somehow snared out of the air. It was indicative of his toughness, and Heyward knew he had to make the play. With time ticking down, it was a play that allowed the offense to continue the drive and get near the end zone for a potential touchdown. Heyward got up and immediately celebrated, however, that might showcase a lack of experience in that situation. Heyward wants to change that.
“I just knew the scenario was two-minute, we’re trying to score a touchdown,” Heyward said. “You don’t want to just kick a field goal for our defense to come out there. If we could put them away, we put them away. I caught it and was excited. I can’t celebrate. I have to learn from that. I need to make an unselfish play. We didn’t want to use any timeouts. I need to know we had to get set. It was a great catch, but I have to think about the team first.”
Pickett called out how amazing of a catch it was by Heyward. There is no doubt that a quarterback will be appreciative whenever their tight end can make a catch as the one Heyward did. It drew plenty of oohs and aahs from around the sidelines at the facility, and Pickett was one of the people who was impressed.
“Connor made a hell of a play,” Pickett said. “He made an unbelievable one-handed catch down the middle. He started celebrating a little bit afterward, but we’ll let that go. It’s nice to know that you have a guy who can go up and get that ball.”
Mike Tomlin wanted to see his team in that environment. He sent out the rookie to see what he could do. Even at this time of year, the two-minute drill is important to run. At the very least, it gets the players acclimated to the environment. At this stage, Tomin wants to see how his team handles the pressure and communicates. For a young player like Heyward, that will be a focus for himself moving forward.
“Just good communication,” Tomlin said. “It’s under duress, obviously. Just the giving and receiving of information at this stage on both sides of the ball. The formal communication, play-caller to signaler on both sides, but also the informal things after that formal discussion gets had: formation recognition, Mike identification from a protection standpoint. There’s a lot of communication that has to happen in a tight amount of time and those drills provide an opportunity for guys to sharpen their skills in that area.”
Rainy Day Provides Opportunities
It was a little rainy for the Steelers on Tuesday afternoon. The rain was coming down in Pittsburgh, and while it slowed down to an extent during practice, the ground was wet and the balls were slick. While it was not like playing in a full-on downpour, the Steelers still had the opportunity to go up against some wet conditions. For Tomlin and the coaching staff, this was a day that they look forward to the most. Given that they play in different conditions, there have to be lessons taught to the players. Tomlin was looking forward to this day being one of those days.
“I actually was hoping it would rain a little bit because we play in all conditions and it’s just an opportunity to educated and see skillsets in that regard,” Tomlin said. “I’m sure those days will present themselves.”
For any skill position player, it was a little bit tougher to get in and out of cuts. For the quarterbacks, the ball was just ever so tougher to grip and rip around the field. It was the first lesson of the year that Pittsburgh is not always kind when it comes to weather. For the young players, that will be a lesson they will learn to be all too familiar with.
Mike Tomlin and Omar Khan Learning to Work Together
Omar Khan is officially the Steelers’ new general manager. However, the Steelers still have the same head coach as Mike Tomlin. There is change above him, but Tomlin is the ever so lasting constant. With new additions to the staff such as Andy Weidl and Sheldon White in addition to Khan, Tomlin has been working on getting to know the new front office that he is working with. Certainly, there will be some philosophical changes under Khan. The new relationship in this capacity started with Khan taking Tomlin out for dinner on Monday. The staff will have to learn how to work as one under a cohesive unit.
“We’re just dating right now,” Tomlin said. “We went to dinner last night. It was great. You know how it is. All of us, all the scouts and so forth. We’ll be tested moving forward. There will be plenty of opportunities for that. But right now, we’re on our honeymoon.”
As the team moves into training camp and the season, this relationship will grow. It will be crunch time once the offseason rolls around in 2023. That will be when the new relationship must come together to make a successful draft plan. For now, Khan and Tomlin can get to know the specific goals of each other in their capacities and work towards a common goal.