Don’t tell anybody about your problems, because they either don’t care or are glad that you have them. That’s a quote that Mike Tomlin invoked multiple times during the 2019 season when the Pittsburgh Steelers were experiencing a litany of injuries on offense, a season largely derailed by Ben Roethlisberger’s injury in the second game of the year.
They ended up getting six starts, even, out of Devlin Hodges, a rookie college free agent out of a small school, with Mason Rudolph also starting eight. Neither of them had ever thrown an NFL pass before when the season started, but they still managed to go 8-8.
Tomlin sees some similarities to what he went through last year and what Mike McCarthy is dealing with now with the Dallas Cowboys, who lost Dak Prescott to a nasty injury, and now have Andy Dalton sidelined with both a concussion and a Covid-19 infection. After starting Ben DiNucci last week and watching him struggle, this week, he is turning to Garrett Gilbert.
“Having recently been in those circumstances, there’s some things that are going on there that are pretty familiar to me”, the Steelers head coach said on the Mike Tomlin Show last night. “I think there’s probably a period of shock that you all go through, initially, uh, after a loss of a players is significant as Dak, and then you start formulating the new formula in which you work to win and you acknowledge certain things and certain things have to transpire”.
With injuries neutering their offense, the Steelers had to turn to their defense to lead the way, and they did, producing 38 takeaways, three of which they brought back for scores. Tomlin sees a similar pattern emerging for the Cowboys.
“In watching their recent play particularly last weekend against Philadelphia, where the defense created four turnovers, I know that they’re preaching turnovers are a significant element of play in the development of the new winning formula”, he said. “So we better respect that. We better do a really good job of taking care of the ball”.
“We were in a similar circumstance a year ago. We sung that same song”, he added. “As a matter of fact, we were talking about scoring on defense and special teams. And I remember specifically when we were in LA, we challenged our group, we’re going to play the Chargers. We challenged our group to support Duck in that way, and we got a turnover for a score early in that game. So we understand where they are. We respect it. We see the adjustments they’re making from a team standpoint”.
Fortunately, the Steelers are singing a different tune this season. In fact, if they win today, they will match their win total from last year in half the games, which would guarantee yet another non-losing season for Tomlin.