It wasn't even two minutes after CB Deshea Townsend's 26-yard touchdown return that the text messages began filling up in my phone. It was probably a good thing, because my voice was too shot to talk.
Judging by his post-game interview, Mike Tomlin's voice was gone, too.
One of those texts was from my friend Mitch, who said, "Man, Timlin is the greatest! You guys are really lucky to have him."
After correcting Mitch's typo, I advised him I agreed.
The Steelers are really lucky. Luck is a residue of toil, but they're going to need a few breaks to hold off the blazing hot Ravens in a tight AFC North race. Tomlin's outward appearance seems to show his awareness of that, and he's competitively trying to grab any angle he can to motivate his players.
Coach Tomlin has always been exuberant on the sideline, but he's always been more on the side of restraint. Sunday, he seemed to have even more invested in the team's performance than usual. Video of Tomlin celebrating as if he was on the field for Ike Taylor's now famous "He DOES have hands that work!" interception shows how much he has invested in the team.
The Steelers will need that kind of support going into the biggest Steelers/Ravens game of the past six. The players need that kind of support, considering Baltimore is far from the also-ran team it was last season.
Going into Week 15, the Steelers lead the AFC North by one game. If they win, they'll only need one more win, or one Baltimore loss, to clinch their second consecutive division crown.
A Baltimore win pulls them even in overall record, head-to-head record (the first tie-breaker), divisional record (the second tie-breaker), but the Ravens would own the third tie-breaker, record against common opponents. Baltimore defeated Philadelphia, but the Eagles dealt the Steelers their first loss of the season in Week 3. Pittsburgh would need Baltimore to lose one or both of their last two games if the Ravens defeat the Steelers Sunday.
Considering the Steelers haven't lost a meaningful AFC North game since Tomlin took over (9-1, with their only loss coming to the Ravens in a throwaway Week 17 game last year when the Steelers rested their starters), they should be confident for this one.
Tomlin mentions style points a bit, and how they don't really matter this time of year. Points should go to Tomlin for confidence management. Look at how crucial morale was against Dallas: Tomlin sends his offense back on the field down 13-3 to pick up a 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The Steelers at that point were 2-for-10 on fourth down, and had been beaten up at the point of attack. He's saying more of "our defense will pick us up if we falter" than he's saying "our offense will get this done."
Considering the circumstance, it was the perfect call, and I'm including the fact they failed pretty badly in execution. The Steelers D came in, gave up one first down, but got the ball back. Jeff Reed knocked down a huge field goal to pull it to 13-6.
The Steelers defense is playing at a level worthy of consideration with the best of the past two decades, and now, their coach has shown them he has all the confidence in the world in them. Their secondary saw how excited Tomlin was on Taylor's interception. The rest of the team saw Tomlin's reaction to such a big play, and they know how critical that's going to be against the Ravens - and Tennessee and Cleveland after that.
Coach "Timlin" has his players in the right mindset. Sunday is just a matter of execution.