Mike Tomlin thinks Steelers' defense is on the rise

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has spent nearly 90 minutes talking to the media at this week's NFL owners meetings -- one hour as part of the AFC coaches breakfast and a private session with Pittsburgh beat writers.

After his upbeat session Tuesday, it's clear where Tomlin stands on various issues with his team.

We already know how Tomlin is feeling on Martavis Bryant's absence and Maurkice Pouncey's recovery.

Here are some more highlights, in quick-hit form.

That Bengals game went a little too far: As for the after-the-whistle problems in the AFC wildcard matchup with Cincinnati, Tomlin said, "I don't think anybody wants that. It's not good for football."

Defense is 'on the rise': Tomlin believes progress has been made to the point where "hopefully our floor is a little bit higher" than in the past few years.

Alejandro Villanueva and Ryan Harris (and possibly others) will battle it out for left tackle: "Isn't that fun?" Tomlin asked with a smile. From a fundamental standpoint, Tomlin basically said all spots are open, even if he knows how certain position battles will shake out (Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback, for example).

Don't sleep on Senquez Golson: When assessing the secondary, Tomlin mentions the excitement of the second-round pick, Golson, who missed his rookie year with a torn labrum. "I think often times he's forgotten about," Tomlin said. "I can't wait to get him on the grass."

Don't think in terms of veteran cornerbacks: Tomlin isn't opposed to adding pieces to the secondary and feels the draft is deep at corner, but he hinted the team wouldn't add a corner or safety in free agency "at this juncture." Defensive line help is more likely on the way, and not necessarily a nose tackle, but a good player who might be able to have a role inside and out.

Not sure what to expect on Cortez Allen: Tomlin isn't assuming Allen can contribute after missing 15 games with a knee issue. The Steelers have asked Allen to take a pay cut, which can result in an outright release, but they haven't done that yet. "At some point in this process, we are going to have a sense of where he is and what he is able to do, those types of things," Tomlin said.

'Le'Veon doesn't have bad days': That's the best way Tomlin describes Le'Veon Bell's recovery from a torn MCL. He's not concerned about Bell's rigorous work.

Ladarius Green makes Steelers more versatile: Green is a 'talented young guy who's on the rise.' He also gives the Steelers a big, field-stretching tight end. Tomlin isn't going to pigeonhole Green as a vertical only guy -- he's an improving blocker and has added nearly 20 pounds of solid weight since entering the NFL, the coach said.

Reason 1,234 why Steelers need corners: Tomlin said the team plays at least five defensive backs about 70 percent of the time. He doesn't see that changing.

Tomlin still holding the torch for the Cover-2 defense: The Steelers played Cover-2 some in 2016 and "it's effective in certain situations in certain times with certain variations," Tomlin said. "It’s very much a part of the game of football. It's not going anywhere."

Sammie Coates was eager to improve conditioning: That's biggest reason why Tomlin is confident in him. Coates took that process seriously, which is crucial for young wideouts unaccustomed to the conditioning standard. That eagerness will allow Coates to showcase his athleticism more in 2016. "He was less resistant to the process really than most," Tomlin said. "For those reasons he’s encouraged."

Two RBs better than zero: Tomlin said he'll gladly take the problem of finding playing time for DeAngelo Williams behind Bell than having no viable options at the position."Let’s be real, that’s a good problem to have, isn’t it? We have two capable running backs; I’m not going to turn that into an issue," Tomlin said.