Walk into any locker room in the NFL and you’ll hear the same sentiment. Everyone has a role, everyone has a chance, everyone can contribute.
It’s trite and it’s easy to say. But there’s arguably no one in the NFL who acts it out better, or unfortunately, more often than the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Dan walked you through it well in yesterday’s article. Whether it’s Jordan Dangerfield, B.J. Finney, Chris Hubbard, or whoever else is next to step up to the plate, they come in with full confidence and backing from the team and succeed.
After the Steelers’ win against the New York Jets, that phrase – next man up – was on everyone’s mind.
“The standard is the standard,” Vince Williams told reporters via Steelers.com. “That’s real. That’s it. I don’t know what ya’ll what me to say. Nobody on this team believes they’re a backup. Everybody just believes they’re waiting their opportunity to put their hand in the pile and help this team win football games.”
Williams himself got the starting nod in place of the injured Ryan Shazier. There was no timeshare with L.J. Fort and with good reason; Williams had another spectacular day, leading the team in tackles in consecutive weeks.
“Next man up is the standard around here,” Jarvis Jones said. “Coach Tomlin is really serious about it what he said. Guys take pride when they’re the next man up. Guys did great this week doing so and we got a great win together.”
Jones’ playtime took a backseat, injuries may have factored in, but it was Anthony Chickillo who made his presence known for basically the first time all season. He had a strip sack on Ryan Fitzpatrick to put the Jets behind the sticks and settle for a field goal when the Steelers were nursing a four point lead.
It wasn’t just relatively new faces picking up the slack. It was current starters asked to evolve their role just as Stephon Tuitt’s was when Cam Heyward injured his hamstring.
“We all played together,” Tuitt said. “I’m the next man up, the communicator for the defense. I’m not saying I’m a linebacker but pointing out keys for the defensive line to see and linebackers to see if they don’t see it.”
In the Steelers’ 3-4, the nose tackle is tasked to set the front but given that is flaming out quicker than Milli Vanilli, it falls on the shoulders of Heyward and Tuitt.
Heyward, forced to watch from the sidelines, was a proud papa of the Steelers’ defense, he told reporters.
“It’s nice we have leadership from guys like James Harrison, and Will Gay, and Lawrence Timmons who provide that.”
Heyward said Tuitt told him he was “talking a lot more,” something that’ll have to continue for as long as he’s out. Being a loud-mouth is required and Tuitt has always been fairly reserved. But he, and the defense stepped up and as Keith Butler preaches, kept the offense under 17 points.
The mentality and culture created is what make Mike Tomlin the successful coach he is. Not without fault, to be sure, with a Colbert Report gut mentality and right twice-a-day clock management. But he’s truly backed up the manta of believing in every guy on the roster and in turn, they’ve responded.