Head coach Mike Tomlin has, whether intentionally or not, stumbled into a brand new Tomlinism over the course of the past couple of weeks. Born out of the necessity of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ health circumstances this year, having previously been a team centered around key star players, the 13th-year head coach’s interest now is to ‘strike a blow for ‘team’’.
It’s an expression that he has invoked a handful of times since the Cincinnati Bengals game, enough that he was asked about it on Tuesday during his pre-game press conference in preparation for Sunday’s important road game against the Arizona Cardinals.
“It just means that when you’re faced with adversity, particularly in terms of significant components or contributors, that it doesn’t define you, that football is the ultimate team game”, he said. “We try to live that out every day, and when guys step up and deliver, it’s just verification of it”.
When you’re getting contributions, meaningful contributions, from the likes of Tevin Jones, Kerrith Whyte, Deon Cain, Robert Spillane, Isaiah Buggs, Trey Edmunds, and—oh yeah—Devlin Hodges, then I think you’re well-positioned to make a case that you’re indeed making some sort of case for the team aspect of the sport.
Just two years ago, the Killer Bs dominated the world of Steelers football. There was Ben Roethlisberger, the long-time franchise quarterback who has set almost every meaningful record in the team’s history at the position. There was Antonio Brown, the absurdly talented wide receiver who seemingly did something uniquely impressive every season and every game. Then there was the mercurial running back, Le’Veon Bell, who even after skipping the offseason would go on to have a strong season by year’s end.
That team went 13-3, but would lose in their first playoff game. This team has had to adjust to its circumstances on the fly, and had an absolutely brutal schedule through the first five weeks, during which they faced four of the top five teams in the NFL, minus the New Orleans Saints. But since then, they have been one of the hottest teams in the league, and are positioning themselves to make their way into the postseason.
Even accomplishing that—hell, just doing what they’ve already done—says a lot about what you can do in this game simply by playing it the right way. You still need talent, of course, and they’ve been able to add that on the defensive side of the ball, for sure. But the evidence speaks for itself.