Let’s face it, not everybody likes Mike Tomlin. For some people, nothing he ever does or says would ever be good enough. The Pittsburgh Steelers could win the Super Bowl two years in a row and some would find reason to attribute the accomplishment to being in spite of him, rather than because of him.
The same story goes for his manner of speaking, which has become known as Tomlinisms. Mileage varies for me, personally. I don’t agree with everything he says or does, but I generally think that he’s on the right course. And sometimes he just gets the words so right.
“We like to believe that we are the common denominator in all stories involving us”, Tomlin said after the game when he was asked if the team’s win over the New England Patriots earlier that evening felt bigger than the average win in the regular season.
“It felt big because of the present circumstances”, he began, which meant a three-game losing streak that left them holding on to their playoff destiny by the skin of their teeth—not to mention the fact that they knew they had to win based on the early-game results in order to retain that.
“It was less about the opponent and more about particularly how we have played of late, in terms of having an opportunity to finish games”, Tomlin added. “I think the significant element is not about who we play, it’s about us overcoming the things that have been issues for us in recent weeks, particularly we were able to end the game with the defense on the field and that’s significant”.
Tomlin just secured his third victory over New England in 10 games against them, and only the second in nine games against Tom Brady. While the Steelers came close to a win a year ago, they were trounced the year before that in a game much more reminiscent of the norm, which built up to five consecutive losses.
Now when he goes on and says that it didn’t really matter all that much that it was the Patriots that he beat, I don’t believe what he says, and I don’t believe he believes it, either. But a coach doesn’t necessarily speak the truth in order to coach. Sometimes you have to say something in order to convey a certain message to your team.
That is what this was. We are the common denominator in all stories involving us. That was the message to his players. We write our own destiny. We control what happens to us. Nobody else matters; it doesn’t matter who it is.
His message gained weight by defeating the Patriots. Now they head south to face the New Orleans Saints, another story in which the Steelers are the common denominator. They control how the story ends, opponent be damned.