Steelers depth chart changes the 2012 equivalent of preparing to "unleash hell"

Joe Robbins

It's appropriate that Week 13 is the three year anniversary of Steelers coach Mike Tomlin's infamous declaration from 2009. The situation that led to Tomlin's best ism is remarkably similar to where the Steelers are in 2012.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin speaks like a general addressing troops before combat.

He's magnanimous, clever, blunt and charming. Whether they're original phrases or obscure paraphrases never attributed in his dialogue, he makes them his own.

One went over as flatulence in an elevator.

After a Week 12 loss, Tomlin uttered a phrase that has dogged him throughout his six years as head coach of the Steelers.

"We will unleash hell here in December because we have to. We won't go in a shell. We'll go into attack mode, because that's what's required."

The message didn't exactly work. The Steelers lost the following week at home to Oakland, followed by a loss to Cleveland (incidentally, the only two losses to the Browns in the last nine years). The phrase "unleash hell" is tantamount with failure in Pittsburgh.

It's December of the 2012 season. The Steelers just lost to the Browns in a game not started by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to fall to 6-5 on the season. In 2009, replace "Browns" with "Ravens," and you have the exact same situation.

Is Tomlin unleashing hell?

He's not saying it, but the ceremonial demotion of Mike Wallace and the actual demotion of Rashard Mendenhall suggests he's reached the same breaking point he did in 2009. Maybe he's wiser now and no longer patient enough to spew hyperbole to describe a team playing without its quarterback as preparing to fight in some kind of holy war.

Maybe actions speak louder than Tomlinisms.

Action is taking a backseat to reaction, though. Injuries to Roethlisberger and back-up Byron Leftwich, WRs Antonio Brown and Jerricho Cotchery, right tackle Mike Adams and outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley loom over the Steelers on their first day of practice leading into their divisional showdown with Baltimore.

No player, and certainly not Tomlin, wants to see the Ravens celebrate their second consecutive AFC North championship while bumping their winning streak over the Steelers to four games. They don't want to face the final quarter of the 2012 season needing to win four straight games - something they did from Weeks 7-10 only to drop two in a row leading into Week 13 - to stay solvent for the playoffs.

Perhaps the point isn't to unleash hell, or make similar comments. Maybe it's to recognize hell has already been unleashed, just not by the Steelers.


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