Mike Tomlin had a conference call with some of Cincinnati’s local reporters earlier this week to discuss the upcoming game between the Steelers and the Bengals. Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer recorded some of the highlights from the conversation between Pittsburgh’s head coach and the media, and Tomlin had some very positive things to say about rookies Giovani Bernard and Tyler Eifert when he was asked what the two players bring to Cincinnati’s offense:
Obviously [Cincinnati's coaching staff] are better positioned to answer that than me but based on my perception, they’re quality young high pedigreed guys who are going to be capable NFL players who are showing right now that they are. Particularly from their tight end position, he was an integral part of their passing game last week. Catch five balls in your first game and the way he contributed, particularly in the misdirection passing game was impressive.
While Bernard should concern the Steelers when he enters the game as a “change-of-pace back” on Monday evening, Eifert could be a very large “x-factor” for the Bengals offense when they go to the air.
The former Notre Dame started his professional career off with a solid performance against Chicago. As Tomlin alluded to, Eifert did a fine job in his regular season debut when he caught five passes for 47 yards and gave Andy Dalton a large (6’6″ 250 lbs.) and inviting target in the passing game.
Although “Ginger Spice” has the fantastic A.J. Green at his disposal on the outside, Eifert and Jermaine Gresham should figure to receive plenty of targets when Cincinnati’s offense is on the field on Monday night. With starting cornerback Cortez Allen sidelined, the Steelers will be without the player who was supposed to help blanket their opposition’s most athletic tight ends in the forms of Eifert and Jermaine Gresham (6’5″ 260 lbs.).
Playing in Allen’s place for Pittsburgh will be the frequently picked-on William Gay (5’10” 190 lbs.) and rookie safety Shamarko Thomas (5’9″ 217 lbs.). Whether or not those two smaller defensive backs will draw a bulk of the coverage responsibilities for Cincinnati’s tight ends has still yet to be determined, but one would have to figure that Pittsburgh cannot afford to use linebackers like Kion Wilson or Lawrence Timmons on the athletic Eifert and Gresham very often.
While the “Ike Taylor vs. Green” matchup will be a fun battle to watch, keep an eye out in the seams and between the hashes for what transpires with Eifert in the passing game on Monday night. Tomlin seems to be well aware of what Eifert (and Gresham) can do to Pittsburgh’s defense if they key too much on Green, so it will be vital to the defense’s success that they find someone to step up and blanket them when the time comes.
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