UNITY TWP., Pa. — As the Steelers were moving into training camp on Thursday, their head coach Mike Tomlin had a one-year contract extension announced by the club.
Tomlin didn’t have a lot to say about the extension, but did thank the Rooney family for continuing to believe in him after the Steelers missed the playoffs last season.
“I don’t dwell a lot on that,” Tomlin said. “But not to say that it is not appreciated. I am blessed to have the opportunity to lead this group and am continually thankful for that.”
There’s been plenty of speculation as to what a one-year extension means when compared to the two-year extensions that had previously been offered, but Tomlin didn’t entertain that line of questioning.
“I really don’t think a lot about it, to be quite honest with you,” he said. “I focus on the task at hand, and if you do that, contractual things take care of themselves.”
The timing of the deal meant that many players were just finding out about the news as they spoke to the media for the first time this training camp.
Veteran cornerback Joe Haden summer up the mood:
“They did? F*** yes,” said Haden, a player that is looking for a contract extension of his own.
“I just love him. He’s one of the main reasons I always tell everybody why I came to the Steelers when I was a free agent: the way that he treats players, the way his coaching style is and ever since I’ve been here, I’ve just loved him even more. As long as he’s here, I’m just really excited about that.”
To a man, the Steelers praised Tomlin‘s work as their head coach and lauded the decision to keep him in town long-term.
“Congrats to him. I think it’s awesome,” guard Ramon Foster said. “That’s something that a lot of organizations don’t do. There’s not enough of that. Having that sense of comfort of having one coach, one team, you know what to expect. And that just gives him the validation that he’s doing his job.
Entering his 13th season, Tomlin is already the NFL’s third-longest tenured head coach. That means that he’s been a part of the organization longer than every player except quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
That means that he’s developed close relationships with nearly every returning Steelers player, and is a big reason that he is beloved in the locker room.
“He’s meant a lot to not only my success, but to everybody here,” said All-Pro defensive end Cameron Heyward. “He teaches us. He’s accountable. He lets us know when we drop the ball. But he does it on a level where he’s not just going to say it to you, he’s going to motivate you.”
Tomlin came under fire from the outside after the team went through a tumultuous 2018 season that ended with the departures of star offensive players Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
Some outside the organization felt that Tomlin’s player-friendly mindset fostered an environment that led to the misbehavior of his stars. But those players have been removed from the equation, and the ones that remain are very pleased that Tomlin is staying.
“He’s a player’s coach,” said cornerback Mike Hilton said. “He’s really in tune with his guys. He loves talking to us — not just about football, about anything. He shows that enthusiasm and is great to be around.
Watch: Steelers LB Ola Adeniyi Surprises Mother with SUV for Birthday
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi had a big surprise for his mother for her birthday last week.
Adeniyi, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in Texas, posted a video on Friday of him surprising his mother with a Range Rover for her birthday.
Adeniyi, 23, just finished his third season with the Steelers in 2020 after joining the team as an undrafted free agent out of Toledo in 2018.
He got his most extensive playing time this season, appearing in 14% of the team’s defensive snaps after playing just 1% and 6% in his first two seasons. The injury to Bud Dupree opened up more playing time for Adeniyi and rookie Alex Highsmith at outside linebacker. Adeniyi has been a consistent performer on special teams the last two seasons.
Adeniyi is a restricted free agent this offseason and should be expected to earn a raise on his $575,000 salary from this past season.
Jerome Bettis Helps Start Memorial Fund for Family of Tim Lester
Steelers running back Jerome Bettis is trying to help out the family of his former teammate.
Tim Lester, who was Bettis’ teammate and lead blocker with the Steelers and Los Angeles Rams, died this week at the age of 52 due to complications from COVID-19.
After Lester’s death, Bettis started the Tim Lester Family Memorial Fund, and a GoFundMe page that has accumulated over $35,000 worth of donations in just two days.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and want to support Tim’s wife Natalie and children Tim Jr., Tristan and Tony in any way we can,” Bettis wrote. “I , Jerome Bettis, with the help of my family, friends and former teammates of mine and Tim’s have set up this memorial fund to help the Lester family with funeral costs. We thank you for your thoughts, prayers, well wishes and generous donations in lieu of flowers.”
James Farrior, Joey Porter, Kordell Stewart and Will Wolford are among the former teammates that have contributed.
Report: Ben Roethlisberger Wants JuJu Smith-Schuster to Return to Steelers for 2021
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is expected to return to the team, according to a report by NFL Network, and he apparently also wants wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster to return to the team with him.
NFL Network’s Mike Garafalo reported that Roethlisberger has communicated to the team that he wants Smith-Schuster back for the 2021 season.
Roethlisberger has one season left on his contract, which carries a $41 million cap hit, including $19 million of salary. Smith-Schuster is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career after making $1.04 million in 2020.
Roethlisberger’s contract is a big part of a money crunch that has the Steelers as much as $40 million over the 2021 salary cap entering the offseason.
Smith-Schuster is expected to make as much as $15 million per year on a market-value contract.
It’s not clear how the Steelers would be able to fit both Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster under the 2021 salary cap. Roethlisberger would almost certainly have to take a significant pay cut.