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Mike Tomlin Press Conference: James Conner Update, Defensive Line Rotation, Mason Rudolph's Comeback

Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin addressed the media about Mason Rudolph's play, James Conner's injury and how they replaced Stephon Tuitt.

James Conner

Both James Conner (shoulder) and Benny Snell Jr. (knee) will be evaluated throughout the week. Tomlin indicated Conner could still play against the Colts, but the early part of the week will be limited for the running back. 

"One thing's for sure, it's going to limit him surely at the early portions of the week," Tomlin said about Conner's injury. "James has played enough ball, we're starting to get comfortable with him to maybe not require a complete week of work in an effort for him to play." 

Jaylen Samuels' return is "right on time" for the Steelers. The second-year back will return in Week 9 and could see the majority of the backfield role with Conner and Snell dealing with injuries. 

Tomlin said Samuels had a clean bill of health before the Miami game but the productivity of Snell and Trey Edmunds allowed them to give him the extra week of recovery. 

The Steelers haven't ruled out either running back but could look a different direction if needed. Tomlin said they'll see how the evaluation of the week will determine how they handle the situation. 

"We'll see," Tomlin said when asked if they'll look elsewhere for running back depth. "I'm not ready to acknowledge that they're going to miss as of yet. That's generally how we operate, we're not a hypothetical group. We take a set of circumstances and variables based on known information and we adjust accordingly."

Replacing Stephon Tuitt

The Steelers utilized a number of players to fill the role of Stephon Tuitt. Cameron Heyward played his highest snap count of the year, Isiah Buggs saw his first regular season action and Vince Williams filled in as a pass rusher. 

Tomlin says the defense is still a work-in-progress to fill the shoes of Tuitt. They'll continue to adjust with the players they have and the production each of them is putting out.

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"Not necessarily so, hopefully guys evolve," Tomlin said when asked about Heyward playing a large amount of snaps. "Some of those new guys I mentioned, maybe that's just the beginning for a guy like Isiah Buggs. L.T. Walton we just reacquired last week, he got off of the couch, maybe he's more conditioned to play and a more viable option for us. I think as we go and guys grow and show their capabilities, we'll adjust accordingly."

Mason Rudolph's Turnaround 

"We had confidence in him, we didn't need to see that," Mike Tomlin said when asked about Rudolph turning his game around in the second half. "That's kind of in his DNA." 

The Steelers quarterback struggled in the first half, throwing an interception and nearly losing a fumble in the first quarter. 

Rudolph finished with 251 yards and 2 touchdowns by the end of the night. His long completions to Diontae Johson and JuJu Smith-Schuster both resulted in touchdowns, and the Steelers offense saw the most success they have all season. 

"I think any time a person lacks experience there's potential for struggle," Tomlin said. "So how do you gain experience, but through play. Particularly at the quarterback position, you don't get to the position he's in unless you're capable of smiling in the face of adversity."

When asked why Devlin Hodges didn't start warming up on the sidelines, Tomlin lack of enthusiasm said it all, "Next question." 

Winning a Challenge

Tomlin also ended his losing streak for challenges. Before Monday night, the Steelers have lost 11-straight challenges under Mike Tomlin. After winning the spot of the ball on a 4th and 1 run by Ryan Fitzpatrick, that streak came to an end. For Tomlin, he wasn't concerned. 

"I didn't feel any about that challenge than I do many of the ones that I've lost," Tomlin said. "I felt good about it but I've felt good about ones that I've lost."