As was expected, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin did an admirable job of saying a lot of words that didn’t say a great deal, an oratory ability to keep his cards concealed that he has honed and fine-tuned over the past decade with the Pittsburgh as well as national media.
The reporters in attendance don’t often get a lot of great information from which they can build their stories, which is typically what Tomlin wants, but every once in a while, he does use this medium to get a story out for a purpose, as we have seen with certain incidents even this year.
Other times, is certainly seems as though he is speaking specifically to his players with certain remarks, for one reason or another, and there may have been one of those yesterday, directed at, or at least in the direction of, second-year wide receiver Martavis Bryant.
The gauntlet thrown down for him from coaches and teammates in both public and private comments has been amply documented heading into the Wildcard game, to which he responded with a 44-yard run and a 10-yard athletic touchdown reception, but that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story, let alone draw it to a conclusion.
When asked about Bryant’s performance, Tomlin responded by saying that “he got a vivid example about what a good week’s preparation provides, which is positive play”. Reading between the lines, the implication is that he has not been putting in consistently quality weeks of practice over the course of the season, and that it is time for that to change.
Regarding the manner in which he was publicly challenged by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Tomlin said of Bryant, “he absorbed it like a professional and realized it was delivered in love and went about going to work and preparing and had a great week’s preparation. I thought his play reflected that”.
It wasn’t a one-game challenge. It was a new everyday reality that Bryant has to prepare for, and it is one that comes at a critical time, during a playoff run that includes the organization’s first postseason victory in five years, with a game upcoming that may depend upon him.
And it wasn’t a message just for Bryant’s ears, as the veteran head coach made clear at the end of his comments. “Let that not only be a lesson to him, but a lesson to all of us”, he said. “Quality preparation usually produces quality play. There is no substitute for the process of preparation”.
That is certainly a message that second-year former undrafted free agent running back Fitzgerald Toussaint took to heart early on, as he worked his way up from being cut by the Ravens, to signing with the Steelers’ practice squad, to being promoted to the 53-man roster, to moving up the depth chart, and ultimately starting last week due to the weekly preparation that enabled the coaches to trust him in spite of his lack of an in-game resume.