The Pittsburgh Steelers are 9-2 after defeating the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 12 at Heinz Field, but the topic of discussion surrounding the team wasn’t necessarily focused on the most recent game, but comments made by Mike Tomlin to Tony Dungy on NBC leading up to the prime time game.
If you missed the segment, here is what was said, as transcribed by Kevin Gorman of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
When asked “how good” can the Steelers be in an interview with Tony Dungy on NBC's Football Night in America, this was Tomlin's response: “Oh, we can win it all. We should win it all. I sense that about the group. In terms of talent, in terms of having enough competition, depth, I think we check all those boxes. But checking the boxes doesn't run the race.”
But Tomlin didn't stop at the finish line. He kept going, looking forward to the Dec. 17 game against the New England Patriots.
“Man, I'm going to embrace the elephant in the room, it's going to be fireworks,” Tomlin said. “It's probably going to be part one, and that's going to be a big game. But, probably, if we're both doing what we're supposed to do, the second is really going to be big. And what happens in the first is going to set up the second one, and determine the location in the second one.”
These were strong statements by a coach who usually doesn’t give anyone else fodder, or extra motivation, by what he says to the media.
After the game, Tomlin was asked about his comments, and his answer is in the video below (1:27 mark):
Tomlin: "We persevered in the face of adversity." pic.twitter.com/Dd06koI3Me— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 27, 2017
It was interesting to hear Tomlin talk about how Dungy asked him to not give the “coach speak” answer, almost as if he was suggesting the cameras weren’t rolling, and Tomlin got caught with his pants down, so to speak.
But that isn’t the point here. The point is these comments mean absolutely nothing. Some media personalities have blasted the coach for overlooking opponents, while others have said how the stoic Bill Belichick would never dare say such a thing to the media.
To this I say, “So what?”
Tomlin said it in his post-game press conference, and he believes it...he is extremely confident in his football team. And let’s be honest, what he said wasn’t really earth-shattering news. The Patriots have been the Steelers’ dragon which needs to be slain for over a decade, and after the 2016 AFC Championship game debacle, did you really think the entire team, organization and fan base didn’t have this Week 15 game circled since the schedule was released?
But what about overlooking teams?
How many games have they lost while overlooking teams? You can argue this occurred in Week 3 vs. the Bears, but other than that loss, the Steelers might be winning ugly, but they are winning.
In fact, since the Steelers have been tied with the Patriots atop the AFC, they have done nothing but win. Yeah, they sure are overlooking opponents. The Steelers now prepare for back-to-back AFC North contests, and you can guarantee Pittsburgh won’t be overlooking the upcoming game vs. Vontaze Burfict and the Bengals, or the Ravens when they come to Heinz Field in Week 14. Divisional rivalries bring their own intensity to the game, and the Steelers could even clinch the division if they can win their next two games, putting even more distance between themselves and the rest of the AFC North.
When it comes to the potential “motivation” for the Patriots when they come to Heinz Field in Week 15, if either team has a player who needs extra motivation for a game which could have huge playoff implications attached to it, then it might be time for them to find a new occupation.
Tom Brady knows what is at stake. He doesn’t need Mike Tomlin talking about the game, and a potential playoff rematch, to get him fired up. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers remember the embarrassment last year at Gillette Stadium, watching the Patriots dismantle Pittsburgh en route to another Super Bowl title.
So, with all that said, in my opinion you can chalk all this Tomlin/Patriots talk to the latest drama which will, if it hasn’t already, entrench the Steelers’ locker room. With a season filled with drama, it doesn’t seem to phase this team, after all, they are 9-2 heading into Week 13. Nonetheless, many will use this as another reason to denounce Tomlin as a quality coach, and that is too bad, considering what he said means absolutely nothing when you look at the overall grand scheme of things.