It wasn’t the lineup Mike Tomlin, or anyone in Pittsburgh, would ever expect, anticipate, or want. But “such is life” as Tomlin would quip, playing the hand you’re dealt and making it through to the other side.
That was the situation going into Sunday’s thrilling win over the Baltimore Ravens. There was still Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown, which is better than what they’ve had to work with in the past. But there were also the “who?” guys: Xavier Grimble, Demarcus Ayers, and Johnny Maxey.
Reflecting on the win, Tomlin circled back to his praise of those young guys seizing the moment,
“Like I said after the game, some of the young guy contributions were significant,” Tomlin said in his press conference moments ago. “We’ve talked often about some of the young guy contributions over the course of the season. But I thought in two particular cases, it was interesting. Guys like Demarcus Ayers and Maxey getting their first opportunity to play professional ball. And having to do so in those circumstances and in that environment. I thought they represented themselves and us extremely well and they were positive contributors to our effort. Appreciate that.”
But that result isn’t be accident. Tomlin says that’s planned for throughout the year in case there’s a worst-case scenario which Sunday, they were.
“The bottom line is this. If they’re in the building, if they’r in the organization, we coach them. That seems like nothing but that’s something. I believe our developmental guys, our practice squad guys, know they are not tackling dummies. They’re not scout teamers. They help us prepare and in doing s they get better and prepare themselves.”
Ayers drew a huge pass interference call, running an excellent route, and made one official catch on the Steelers’ final, game-winning drive. And Maxey drew a holding call and was simply a healthy an able body without Stephon Tuitt and a clearly hobbled Ricardo Mathews.
The moment wasn’t too big for either of them. Nor the team. And that’s what secured them the win.