Mike Tomlin loves phrases. “If you will.” “At this juncture.” “Unleash Hell.”
Ok, maybe that last one didn’t work out so well.
One of his most recent ones is a little more specific and tailored to football. The sudden change opportunities, where a turnover flips the field, either giving the offense a huge advantage or putting the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ defense in a bind.
It was a discussed topic between Tomlin and Bob Labriola prior to the Indianapolis Colts’ game.
“Often times on defense, you have no control over what conditions or circumstances with which you take the field. You have all the control over how you get off the field. So more than anything, it’s those guys checking in with one another and agreeing to rise up and meet the adversity head-on and putting the fire out,” he told Labriola.
Those conditions were less than favorable for the defense in the first quarter Sunday night. Twice.
The first came with the Colts starting on the Steelers’ 11 following Jacoby Jones’ opening kickoff fumble. The defense rose to the occasion with Jarvis Jones intercepting Matt Hasselbeck on third down.
The other, less talked about instance, was on the Steelers following drive. DeAngelo Williams, in a rare moment, fumbled the ball away and gave Indianapolis the ball at the Steelers 26. Again, the defense held firm, not allowing a first down and forcing the Colts to settle for a field goal.
No one was more thankful to see that than the fumbler, Williams.
“I went by and thanked everyone of them for bailing me out on the fumble early in the game,” Williams told reporters immediately after the game. “Because that was big. Especially when you have a turnover and the defense comes out on a sudden change and get it right back for you.”
“That’s something that we practice all the time with Coach T. At any given point in practice, he’ll say, ‘sudden change.’ Offense runs out, defense runs out, we spot the ball there, and we go.”
That practice was evident in the Steelers’ exeuction this week. Something they couldn’t do two weeks ago in the loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
To Tomlin, those two plays set the tone for the game. As he explained in today’s press conference.
“Watching the tape, I thought the most significant element of the game was our ability to stand up in the face of adversity in the very early stages of the game. The first two times our defense took the field was in our territory. I think our ability to get off the field in those two instances with a total of three points really set the stage and really provided a platform that the team sprung off of as the game unfolded.”