Tomlin said it would be premature to say that the Steelers offensive line is jelling, even though he was pleased with the way the unit played during the win against the Baltimore Ravens. Then, Tomlin added something.
"How they do, and how we do is going to determine how we move forward," Tomlin said. Obviously. If the Steelers would have received consistent play from their offensive line in either of their opening losses, the results likely would have been different. No guarantees, but their chances would have been enhanced.
Just look at the job the Steelers O-line did against the Baltimore Ravens. The group pushed around one of the better D-lines in the league and held noted pass-rushers Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil to just 1.5 total sacks. The keys to that performance were solid play from left tackle Kelvin Beachum and right tackle Guy Whimper. Kelvin Beachum and Guy Whimper? Those two were little more than spare parts at the beginning of the season, there to provide depth.
Actually, Beachum was a key backup, due to his versatility, but Whimper was perceived by many to be a surprise member of the final, 53-man roster. I know I was in that large group. I watched Whimper in line drills every day during training camp, and he appeared to be soft, incapable and disinterested. That trifecta, many believed, would lead to Whimper being cut before the season.
Not only was Whimper signed for the season, but he dressed for every game, even though he didn't get an offensive snap until the Ravens game when Marcus Gilbert re-injured his right quad. Whimper left the bench for just one other game, getting some special team's work against the Vikings in London. So, what happened to Whimper to help him turn things around?
"First off, his name is Abdullah," Steelers left guard Ramon Foster said. "And now that we got that established, Abdullah did a really good job. But Guy's a pro, and he's been in this league for eight years, man. So, it was good to see him come into the game and not miss a step.
"When Marcus went down, it was four plays in before I knew that (Whimper) was even in the game. But he's a true pro, and I can see why Coach signed him in the offseason."
For those who don't already know it, Tomlin gave Whimper the nickname Abdullah, in reference to the vicious professional wrestler, Abdullah the Butcher. Tomlin apparently believed the name Whimper wasn't tough enough. Abdullah and the boys certainly were physical against the Ravens. They really pushed them around.
"We needed to," Foster said. "We definitely needed to. So, we accomplished our goal (Sunday), but this isn't a pat on the back. We just got our job done. We just executed the plays. That was the biggest thing for us. There weren't any minus plays. There weren't any early sacks or crazy turnovers. So, when we did that and established what we needed to get done, things worked for us.
"(And) the run game was a really big deal, because that team barely gives up anything in that department. So, to get that going was huge for us. I know Ben had a lot of yards passing (not really, 160), but the run complemented our offense big time this week. Le'Veon and all the backs did a really good job hitting the holes. We stayed on our blocks and didn't get pushed back.
"So, it was all about execution," Foster added. "And, like I've said, we had the mindset that we wanted to be physical in this game. Every year, if you look at the winners and losers of this game (between the Ravens and Steelers), the team that beats up the other team's line is the one that wins. (And) the minus players were minimum compared to weeks in the past."
And if that type of play continues from their offensive line, who knows how far the Steelers can go this season? Just ask Tomlin. Foster had his own thoughts.
"I think we can be a good team," Foster said. "Considering what we've done so far, and considering what we've been through. If we don't go backward and continue to grow, I really think we can have a special team, a team that can have a really good playoff run. And who knows from there? Getting these two back-to-back wins is good.
"But at the same time you can't pat yourself on the back and be party rock stars after just two wins. It's not going to happen. (And) I get that feeling from the vibe that this team has right now. We understand the situation that we're in. The games that we've lost have been in our hands. Well, the Chicago game got a little out of hand.
"But we were in all the other games," Foster said. "It's not like we got blown out of stadiums. It's been stuff that we can control, and I think the guys understand that we just can't show up to a stadium. Our Steelers logo won't hold if the guys in the pads aren't doing the job. So, I think going 0-4 and having a bye week to really reflect on that helped us see that, and even the young guys are getting it now. They understand what the Steelers are all about."