Steelers’ Mike Tomlin on Raheem Morris, Arthur Smith

Pittsburgh coach on Falcons’ current, former head coaches - and QB Justin Fields

ORLANDO – Steelers coach Mike Tomlin attracted a crowd Monday as coaches from the AFC met with the media as part of the NFL owners’ annual league meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Now the NFL’s longest-tenured head coach, Tomlin mentioned several players, coaches and league initiatives while meeting with the press. Three had ties to Atlanta -- current Falcons coach Raheem Morris, former Falcons coach Arthur Smith and new Steelers quarterback (and former metro Atlanta high school All-American) Justin Fields.

Tomlin was 30 and Morris 26 when they began coaching together in Tampa in the 2002 season. The coach now entering its 18th season had plenty to say about Morris, the franchise’s 19th head coach and the first full-time African-American head coach.

-“He is so deserving .... I’m so happy for him.”

-“Knowing Raheem over the last 25 years or so and having the opportunity to work alongside of him, I know his commitment to the game.”

-”I’m just excited about watching the product that those guys are going to put out there.”

Tomlin also had plenty to say about former Falcons coach Smith, now his offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh:

-“Man, I’m highly familiar with Arthur just from competing against him over the years in multiple locations. I had a lot of respect for the work that he did in Atlanta. Also, the work that he did in Tennessee.”

-“I see his personality in his tape. It’s not something that he has to buy into in terms of being a Pittsburgh Steeler.”

-“That was one of the reasons why we pursued him. His football vision and the things that he values are in line with ours.”

As for Fields, Tomlin is excited now that the former Harrison High, Georgia and Ohio State player is now a part of his organization.

-“Oh my gosh, he oozes talent and potential. He’s (known) the responsibility of being a franchise quarterback, but still he gets an opportunity to come into a community-like situation and learn from guy who’s being doing it for over a decade.

-“Man, there is a lot of meat left on that bone. I’m just excited about working to be a part of extracting it.”

Tomlin is looking forward to having him in camp and competing against Russell Wilson in the race for starting quarterback.

-“We’re excited about the guys that we have in Russell and Justin. You just really can’t wait to get started.”

-“Absolutely, their skill-set fits into the vision of what we are trying to get done. So, I’m excited from that perspective.”

The Steelers and the Falcons were in the quarterback market this offseason and took divergent paths with Pittsburgh acquiring Wilson and Fields and the Falcons signing Kirk Cousins in free agency.

Tomlin said the Steelers did not pursue Cousins.

“When the free agency process began, we only had one quarterback on our roster,” Tomlin said. “So, we were looking at available (players) on the market, every potentially available person on the market. So, it was just part of our process.”

Wilson visited the Giants before signing with the Steelers, while the Falcons apparently locked-in on Cousins.

“When we got into it and after he got permission to talk to other teams from Denver, the conversations were very fluid and natural,” Tomlin said. “He did his appropriate research on us. I think that was one of the more impressive things about the process from my perspective. His level of preparedness in terms of knowing us and who we are and how he might potentially fit.”

After quarterback Kenny Pickett requested a trade, the Steelers went after Fields.

“We did our due diligence and looked at all possibilities in the market,” Tomlin said. “That’s probably what led us to discussions and interactions with Chicago and thus ending up with both guys.”

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