At the beginning of his weekly press conference, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gives a scouting report on the upcoming opponent. Generally, he goes through the position groups and talks about some of the key starters. Always, he speaks of the players’ strengths and core skills.
On Tuesday, when breaking down the Texans, Tomlin started with star defensive lineman J.J. Watt (“It’s amazing how he routinely disrupts the normal flow of offensive football,” the Steelers’ head coach said) and then worked his way through the rest of the defense.
Tomlin finished his defensive breakdown with the secondary. And the last player he highlighted was second-year strong safety D.J. Swearinger, the Texans’ second-round pick in 2013 and a starter for the last 16 regular season games.
While noting he wasn’t “highly familiar” with Swearinger before beginning his study of Houston, Tomlin said the 23-year-old South Carolina product “really jumps off the tape.”
“I really admire the way he plays,” Tomlin said, according to a transcript of his remarks from the club. “He plays with a great deal of heart and passion. He is consistently physical. He does a lot for them. He plays in deep defense. He plays in underneath zone. He plays man. He will man up against tight ends, running backs and even wide receivers. He is a participant in their blitz game as well.
“He has a well-rounded game. He is one of those on the rise, young and talented type of guys in our league.”
It’s here we note Pro Football Focus ranks Swearinger 73rd of 80 qualifying safeties through six weeks. The player-ratingg service has given Swearinger below-par marks against the run and the pass.
Still, Tomlin’s remarks are a little intriguing. After all, Tomlin broke into the NFL as a secondary coach with Tampa Bay more than a decade ago. Maybe it’s just a nice compliment from coach to player and nothing more. But maybe it’s a sign the second-year pro is on the right track.