Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin has a way with words. He has the ability to both convey critical information without using many words, or talk at length without really revealing much of anything. Sometimes the real meaning of his ramblings has to be interpreted by the listener.
Tomlin has his share of preferred replies that have come to be loving known as “Tomlinisms.” One in particular immediately comes to mind when examining the state of our present societal situation. "We refuse to live in our fears."
Although the statement has a far greater meaning, we will focus on what it means for the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers in this discussion. What does this mindset means for Mike Tomlin and the coaching staff, Ben Roethlisberger, and the Steelers defense?
Last season, after Roethlisberger went down for the year, the Steelers offensive game plan was impacted by fear. This is the truth, regardless of Tomlin's belief. The proof is in the pudding, and their actions revealed the truth.
The Steelers went ultra-conservative after Ben's injury. Who could blame them, considering the lack of experience and talent at the quarterback position? They tried to remain competitive by playing it safe, relying on a short passing attack utilizing mainly swing passes and dump offs to the running backs. They even dusted off the gimmicky Wildcat offense out of sheer desperation. The only way they could have been more conservative would have been to consistently run the ball three times and then punt the ball if unsuccessful, ultimately relying on their impressive defense to flip the field by creating a turnover or their own three and out. Teams who rely on this type of scenario are also dependent on superior special teams units, an area where the Steelers have often left something to be desired.
This season the coaching staff has to be prepared for some early season struggles based on Ben's inevitable ring rust and the growing pains of new faces in new places. They have to display the patience to allow the offense to gel and find their rhythm and confidently game plan accordingly. The Steelers defense should be prepared and capable of keeping the team competitive during this time.
Big Ben has to make a triumphant return to being Big Ben— the fearless gunslinger who makes unbelievable plays few others have been capable of duplicating. If he is hesitant or fearful of pulling the trigger, then he will be unable to fully utilize his capabilities. If he is fearful of re-injury, then he will be unable to fully commit to his passes, leading to disastrous results. Honestly, I am not concerned about any potential health concerns impacting Ben's performance this season. Confidence and courage has never been an issue for Ben and I don't expect it to change anytime soon.
Finally, the Steelers defense has to aggressively game plan this season to reach their full potential. Last season I felt the defense became noticeable more conservative as the season progressed. This was understandable, considering how any deficit at times felt insurmountable. A touchdown deficit felt more like being two scores down.
Even with the offense’s unprecedented struggles, the defense still managed to lead the league in sacks and turnovers. Imagine what they can accomplish with an honest-to-goodness NFL caliber offense pulling their own weight.
The Steelers coaching staff needs to display the patience and confidence necessary to withstand the rough waters of some early-season offensive struggles that may be inevitable and faithfully believe and adhere to their plan and end goal. There will undoubtedly be hiccups and struggles with the new acquisitions, but they can only learn through playing the game. They are invaluable in the Steelers ability to reach their goal this season, and everyone has to get on the same page. This takes time and a cohesive effort; there are no shortcuts or alternatives.
Trust the process, keep the faith, and fear no one. This is the Steelers way!