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Singularly focused on 2019, Mike Tomlin refutes suggestion Steelers locker room lacked calm last year

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While many feel the Steelers problems in 2018 were caused by in part by issues in the locker room, Mike Tomlin believes the circus surrounding the team was on the outside last year.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

For a man who seldom speaks to the media during the offseason, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was apparently rather talkative last week when speaking with reporters who attended the Hampton Roads Youth Foundation camp held annually in his hometown.

In yet another interview to emerge from the event, Tomlin sat down for a conversation with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN while in Virginia to face a number of question about two former players who will be plying their trade elsewhere in 2019. But when asked if he expects a calmer locker room this year, Tomlin once again refuted any notion of tension last season. As he would tell Fowler.

“I don't know that our locker room wasn't calm a year ago. The circus that’s associated with being us from time to time, the attention and things that come with it, there’s a perception of a lack of calm. But, I don’t know that there was a lack of calm a year ago to be quite frank, within our group.”

“The circus that maybe surrounds our group can be described as that, but the group itself (shakes head). These guys are professional, they understand our climate, what it means to be a professional athlete in 2019 and the microscope associated with that. They embrace it, they don't run away from it, they understand it, as do I.”

“We appropriately answer questions and address issues, but not saying that we agree with the questions or that we acknowledge that there's this helter-skelter that people like to frame that there is. We have no control over the story lines, we just prepare and play and play to win and that will never change.”

Tomlin also declined to make any predictions for 2019 or give any credence to the notion that the events of last year would somehow impact his coaching decisions this season.

“I shaped my reputation in this business and this outlook in this business being singularly focused on the task at hand. So I’d be kidding you if I told you I had a certain edge because of what happened in 2018. I just have a certain edge because I better have a certain edge. This business that I’m in dictates that I better have a certain edge, and I embrace that element of it.”

“I acknowledge that there are some significant changes, but talking about it is not going to dictate the outcome. You won’t hear a lot of bold predictions from us. That is not our style; that is not appropriate. We know that we are judged based on performance anyway.”

A video clip released later in the day would see Fowler ask the Steelers coach about remarks he had made earlier in the year referring to a cleansing that has occurred during the offseason. A comment most attributed to the loss of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.

Asked what he had learned about managing players in light of his experiences with Brown and Bell and what he had meant by his cleansing remark, Tomlin was quick to point out that it was not meant as a criticism of his former players.

“I don't know that I learned anything new, I just know that it’s always a challenge.”

“I just meant what I said. I think that, particularly in this business, it’s something that is very voluntary in terms of mentality. Part of it is a desire to be a part of something bigger than yourself and to put selfish ambition aside. It was no slight against those guys, but all journeys come to an end and their journey in Pittsburgh did and I wish them the best moving forward. I know they’re not looking back and neither are we.”

The Steelers coach also appears to be rather content with the makeup of his team, eager to see what the future holds for the 2019 version of the Steelers.

“We’ve got a good nucleus, we’ve got good young talent, the guys are working hard, they're right minded. But the journey is the journey. The journey will define itself and I’m looking forward to getting on this journey with this group of men.”