John Calipari’s string of hosting high-profile guests on Coffee With Cal continued this week, as Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin joined the show to break down the Kentucky head coach’s favorite NFL team and discuss several key players the Big Blue Nation should be quite familiar with.
Calipari first asked Tomlin about two former Wildcats and current Steelers – Benny Snell and Bud Dupree – about their time in Pittsburgh and the head coach’s thoughts about his young players.
“You’re talking about competitors,” Tomlin told Calipari when asked about Snell.” Benny is a tough-minded kid. He is a competitor. I think that’s the thing that attracted me to him when he was down there doing it for your Wildcats. I watched that guy tote that load and beat the Gators. I understand how tough them SEC wins are. For a guy in that position, it just spoke to us about his football character, man. His toughness. And he’s displayed that since he’s been with us.
After a solid rookie debut, Tomlin is expecting a breakout year for Snell.
“He’s working his tail off, and I’m excited about year two,” he said. “You do a lap around the track, you know how the ground is laid. You see his contribution a year ago, it’s reasonable to expect him to take off as a big time guy for us.”
As for Dupree, who signed his franchise tag with the Steelers this offseason, Tomlin is grateful to have the former Wildcat back in Pittsburgh this year.
“Bud Dupree, yup,” he said with a laugh. “I remember when I came down there for Bud’s Pro Day, seeing that poster they had there on the side of that stadium with him and his brother [Za’Darius Smith]. Bud’s doing great, man. Glad he’ll be with us in 2020, big year for him last year. He’s coming into his own as a pro. … He’s a big-time guy for us.”
Calipari then moved away from current Steelers to talk about another former Wildcat: Lynn Bowden Jr.
“Top-flight athlete,” Tomlin said of Bowden. “Reminded me a lot of Randall Cobb, especially because of the university. This is what they share in common: it doesn’t matter how you put the ball in their hands, they’re a tough tackle. That’s what you saw with the development of his role on that team. They had quarterback issues, so they put the ball in his hands, and he’s a tough tackle. He’s a tough tackle as a receiver, as a return man, and that skillset doesn’t leave you. He’ll be able to do it on Sundays, and if he stays healthy, he’ll be able to have a long career because of it.”
“[Bowden is] a great guy, we had him in the office. They had a good team,” Calipari responded. “But he dragged (the team), if you know what I mean. There were times that he got injured and I thought, “You can’t be in,” and he went right back in. He just had a spirit about him and a will to win that I think transfers [to the NFL]. Randall Cobb was exactly the same way.”
Tomlin then said he called Snell to ask about Bowden during the draft process, adding that he had serious interest in taking the former Kentucky superstar in the NFL Draft this offseason.
“I’m studying Lynn in the draft, and I call Benny. I say, “Benny, what you got? Give me a couple words on Lynn.” And he said, “Coach…” That’s all he said. “Coach…” I said, “That’s enough!”
Instead, Bowden was snatched up by the Las Vegas Raiders in the third round with the No. 80 pick, right out of range of the Steelers, who didn’t have another pick in the third round until No. 102 overall.
While he missed out on taking him in the draft, could the Steelers head coach be interested in trading for the new Vegas playmaker several years down the road?