During a pre-game interview with Tony Dungy that was broadcast in advance of Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin was asked by his former boss to forego ‘coachspeak’ and talk to him friend to friend.
Dungy, the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he hired Tomlin as their defensive backs coach, now works in broadcasting, so the connection between the two was fitting—it also helps that Dungy quite literally played for the Steelers many moons ago.
But the whole thing turned into a disaster when the Hall of Fame head coach got the potential future Hall of Fame coach to acknowledge that he, perhaps, actually spends some time thinking about an opponent that might not be the next on the schedule chronologically.
This is a disaster, right? That’s what I’ve been reading. What an utter gaffe. Tomlin basically said that the game against the New England Patriots schedule a few weeks from now was just going to be a preview of what he believes will be the AFC Championship game, and the winner of that game will determine the venue for the next.
How dare he? Doesn’t he know that Brett Hundley is in town? Clearly Tomlin hasn’t prepared for the Packers’ backup. That is, after all, the only explanation for his ability to put up 28 points on the Steelers’ defense. It had nothing to do with three key instances of poor execution that resulted in long touchdowns.
What Tomlin didn’t say is that he spends his time in the locker room talking to his team about how important the game three games from now is. He never said anything of the sort. In fact, his players seemed surprised by what Tomlin said in the interview, because it was the first that they were hearing it.
“New England? What?”, cornerback Coty Sensabaugh said, perplexed, after he was told of what Tomlin said, seeking his reaction to the comments from his head coach. “I’ll let Coach speak to that”, he told Dale Lolley. “We’re in Cincinnati next week”.
Clearly this is a team that has lost focus and can’t see the forest for the trees, right? Said Le’Veon Bell, “I’ll worry about the Patriots when we get there. I know we’ve got an AFC divisional opponent next week with the Bengals. That’s going to be a tough one. I’ll worry about those guys first. When we get to the Patriots, I’ll worry about them”.
It sometimes amazes me the lengths to which people doubt the capacity of the human mind and its ability to compartmentalize different thoughts and feelings. To know that the Patriots game is a big game and to know that focus must be paid to the upcoming opponent are not mutually exclusive thoughts that work against one another.