One of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s newer “Tomlinisms” is “I (or we) can’t worry about what goes on in other stadiums.”
Tomlin usually makes that statement this time of year, when asked about possible playoff scenarios; that’s kind of ironic, because if there’s one thing Tomlin and his players have had to worry about in the final weeks of two of the past three seasons, it’s stuff going on in other stadiums.
Three regular season finales ago, the Steelers needed a win over the Browns (kudos to Roger “Godell” Goodell for always thinking ahead and giving the men in black and gold one less thing to worry about in the final stadium they play in every year), as well as a victory by the Jets over the Dolphins (done); a victory by the Bengals over the Ravens (done); and a victory by the Chiefs over the Chargers (damn you, Ryan Succop).
Anyway, I guess Tomlin is right for not concerning himself with what takes place in other stadiums (that’s coaching cliche No. 999999), which is why it’s oh so important he and his crew take care of business this Sunday against the Ravens at Heinz Field.
If the Steelers win, they secure a division title, a playoff berth and perhaps a bit of a relaxing final Sunday of the regular season, both playing Cleveland in their stadium and glancing over at the scoreboard to see what the Raiders and Chiefs do in the stadiums they’ll be occupying; if things work out the right way, they could get an extra week of not having to play in any stadiums (they would earn a bye, silly).
If Pittsburgh doesn’t take care of business this week, this could mean a final week of playing the Browns, plus a whole lot of worrying and wondering if Vontaze Burfict and the rest of the Bengals will commit football kamikaze and lay down for Baltimore, just to stick it to their now very bitter AFC North rivals.
Or, if that disaster actually happens, and Cincinnati takes Week 17 off, there’s the added worry that the evil genius Bill Belichick will just pull every single one of his Patriots regulars—including Tom Brady, the big one—and allow his backups to take on the wild card-seeking Dolphins. (It’s doubtful even Belichick is an evil enough of a genius to devise a game-plan to defeat a playoff-desperate football team with 20 or so of his hand-picked scrubs.)
And, even if the Bengals don’t leave work early and Belichick is hell-bent on finishing the regular season with a 14-2 record, this doesn’t mean someone, somewhere, won’t pull an Eagles and attempt a two-point conversion, when, gosh darn it, the smart play would be to go for one.
This is what Philadelphia (5-8 and hopelessly out of the playoff race) did last week, after scoring a last-second touchdown to pull within one point of the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
Years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the Eagles would have been forced to kick an extra point and head straight to overtime (nothing but pride to play for, be damned). But in this era of the New Hope (was the Force Awakens set in the before or after time of the 1977 release, and where does Rogue One fit in chronologically?), Philadelphia had the option of going for two. Convert, and you’re 6-8. Miss it? no big whoop.
Turns out, it was no big whoop, as Carson Wentz’s pass fell incomplete, and the Ravens escaped with a 37-36 victory, along with the old, reliable hope that they’ll be able to remain Pittsburgh’s Krpytonite (see what I did there?) and walk out of Heinz Field Christmas night with the upper-hand in the AFC North battle.
Do the Steelers want to count on Marvin Lewis (who may or not be Cincinnati’s coach by January 1) making the sound decision as it pertains to a post-touchdown conversion attempt in the final week? Do they want to worry about whether or not Belichick will banish Brady and the rest of his starters to the locker room of Gillette Stadium and force them to watch Varsity Blue, a la Michael Scott and The Office?
I’m guessing both scenarios would be less than appealing, which is why the Steelers simply must take care of business this week versus Baltimore.
If they do that, Mike Tomlin will only have to worry about what happens at Heinz Field in Week 17 (and if he wants to take his players on a January booze cruise, it won’t really matter).