"I treat people fairly," Tomlin said on Monday, according to NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala. "I don't aspire to treat everyone exactly the same."
Tomlin, who's entering his 13th season at the helm in Pittsburgh, came under fire last year for his handling of central figures on the team. The Steelers dealt with distractions involving the superstar trio of running back Le'Veon Bell, wide receiver Antonio Brown, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Bell didn't report to the Steelers because of a contract dispute. He left the team for good in free agency, signing with the New York Jets. Brown, meanwhile, was eventually traded after asking to be moved following a late-season falling out with Roethlisberger.
Both Bell and Brown have since acknowledged they were frustrated with Roethlisberger's pettiness and the treatment he received from coaches and the organization.
"We can't do this with hostages, we need volunteers," Tomlin said when asked about Brown's departure, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. He used the same phrase in November while addressing Bell's reluctance to play under the franchise tag in back-to-back years.
"We need good players, good guys who want to be here and if guys can't check those boxes it's probably best for all parties involved to go our separate ways," he added.
At one point during the 2018 season, former Steelers tight end Jesse James compared the team to a reality TV show, saying the central characters are like the Kardashians.
"We all talk too much. We really do," Tomlin said. "It's about talking less and doing more."
The Steelers dropped four of their last six 2018 contests to finish with a 9-6-1 record, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
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