Over the course of the past week leading up to Sunday’s game against the Chiefs, the Pittsburgh Steelers, spearheaded by head coach Mike Tomlin, began referring to the upcoming contest as ‘Redemption Sunday’, an opportunity for the entire roster to a man to redeem themselves after a dismal 31-point defeat last week.
The sentiment in the locker room immediately following that loss was clear and unanimous. “They kicked our butts” was a sentence uttered in nearly every interview a player gave in the aftermath—or at least some derivation of that sentiment, some sprinkled with a bit more colorful language.
Everybody was eager to wash that sour taste out of their mouths, and they took it out on Kansas City, with a commanding 43-14 victory in a game in which the final score was not indicative of how lopsided the affair truly was.
The Steelers held a 22-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, and took a 29-0 lead into the second half. It was 36-0 at the start of the fourth quarter before the Chiefs got on the board for the first time, so say nothing about the number of injury replacements.
It was exactly what Tomlin was expecting to see from his players, and he revisited the ‘redemption’ aspect at the top of his Tuesday press conference with reporters, talking about how they swung from a 31-point defeat one week to a 29-point victory the next.
“We talked quite a bit leading up to the game about the opportunity of responding to a negative performance”, he said. “I thought the guys answered that challenge, but more importantly than that, I thought Sunday night’s game was guys’ real first opportunity to respond to the adversity that the game of football presents”.
The Steelers, of course, held significant leads at the start of the fourth quarter of both of their first two games, both victories, and the lowest margin of victory between the two was eight points. This was a team that had not had to scrape and claw yet before they got knocked down and out by a stifling Eagles defense and an athletic and diverse offense.
Another undercoating of the narrative of the week was the need for several people to step up due to the aforementioned injuries, and Tomlin was certainly not unappreciative of their performances, lavishing praise on all of his spot starters for the game.
“We had a number of people unavailable to us due to injury, so those that were available to us in many cases had expanded roles, and [those performances] were probably some of the key reasons why we had the night we had”.
‘Redemption Sunday’ was an excellent response to what was a very sobering start of the week just seven days earlier, but both games are now in the past. Up next is a Jets team that is very much searching for a level of redemption of their own, and they would be wise to be wary, especially as they may be asked to count upon yet more injury replacements.