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Steelers notebook: Clock watching is gutsy issue for Tomlin

| Tuesday, March 22, 2016, 7:30 p.m.

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Clock management always has been a hot-button topic with NFL coaches, and Mike Tomlin isn't excluded from that conversation.

For Tomlin, he said Tuesday during an AFC coaches breakfast at the NFL Annual Meeting that he follows his gut when it comes to clock management.

“I think there's always going to be room for evaluation of that or judgement of that,” Tomlin said. “I don't worry about that, to be honest with you. It just is what it is. I think there's a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks, and I would love to put a headset on them and stand them on the sideline of the stadium and watch them make no decision.”

A number of the coaches at the AFC breakfast said clock management is a staff-based proposition. Chargers coach Mike McCoy said he has clock management grids to help the process but also goes with his gut at times. He said he even asks quarterback Philip Rivers what he would like him to do.

Tomlin said he is a purely “feel” guy when it comes to those types of decisions.

“I'm not into that. I try to make decisions based on my team. Its men and the variables involved in the specific game that we're in,” Tomlin said. “There are a lot of variables in it, and to be quite honest with you, I never feel moved to get into a lot of detail in terms of explaining my mentality or the layers involved in decision making. It just doesn't bother me to be judged. Just don't take it personal if I don't overly participate in that analysis.”

No hard feelings

Tomlin took a social media shot at running back DeAngelo Williams, and Williams shot back a couple of days later with a phone call to his coach.

“He called me with his kids and they sang me happy birthday on my birthday,” Tomlin said. “You know DeAngelo. He's DeAngelo. He's an awesome member of our team, a great teammate, and I wish everybody had an opportunity to know him on a personal level. If they did, then they would realize he meant no harm by that exchange.”

Twice as nice

When Le'Veon Bell returned to the lineup after his two-game suspension last year, Williams rarely saw the field.

Williams played 114 snaps the first two games but was on the field for only 32 over the next five games before Bell's season-ending injury. He went on to rush for nearly 1,000 yards before getting hurt in the season finale.

With Bell back, will Williams get more snaps based on his performance last year?

“Let's be real. That's a good problem to have,” Tomlin said. “We have two really capable running backs. I am not going to turn that into an issue. Those are the types of issues that you like to have. I have been in situations where I didn't have either, and I prefer to have both.”

Open and shut

On paper and at this point, the Steelers will go into training camp with only one position open on offense (left tackle) and two on defense (cornerback and safety).

But the way Tomlin sees it, there are no closed spots.

“I am one that believes that all spots are open competition, but we know that A.B. is going to win one,” Tomlin said. “I laugh at the notion of open spots. They are all open. I think that we have our head buried in the sand if we don't account for players ascending and the potential for players descending. So, as I go into training camp, I am looking at all the spots.”

Plenty of subs

The Steelers don't have an every-down nose tackle with Steve McLendon signing with the Jets.

Tomlin said he is not concerned because the Steelers' defense rarely uses the nose tackle, citing that the Steelers were in sub-package formations more than 70 percent of the time last year.

“To make decisions with base defense in mind is not really realistic,” Tomlin said. “The most significant downs in today's NFL, usually you employ three or more wide receivers on offense and sub-package on defense. If you look at highlights on weekends, the possession downs, the red-zone plays, the explosion plays, oftentimes they are under those circumstances.”

Mark Kaboly is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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