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Mike Tomlin Motivated By Criticism: ‘We Utilize It As Fuel’

When you’re well-known for a credo like ‘the standard is the standard’—when you believe in it so thoroughly that you put it up in steel letters on the wall of your training facility—you damn well better be prepared to be held to a certain standard

That’s the challenge the Pittsburgh Steelers set out for themselves, year in and year out, and while they are the first to say that any season that doesn’t end in them hoisting the Lombardi Trophy is a failure, their own standards also foster unrealistic expectations from the outside, and perennial talk of this or that coach or front office executive being on the hot seat.

While it’s been some time since they’ve hoisted the trophy, the Steelers have still been one of the most consistently successful franchises over the past decade, even if a substantial increase in postseason victories in in order. But what success they have had goes back to the foundation.

“The consistent, steady leadership that we have from the Rooney family” is what head coach Mike Tomlin attributes the organization’s consistency to. “This organization has been under that leadership for generations. They have experience that money can’t buy. They’ve grown up in this business and that steadiness of leadership kind of filters down to all of us”.

That includes having patience and a steady hand, not making kneejerk decisions based on a limited, more recent data set just because it doesn’t achieve the desired results, but still making the tough decisions when they have to be made. Thus far, it hasn’t been a tough decision for the Rooneys to keep Tomlin around, no matter how many times he’s been said to be on the outs.

“I hear the noise, but I don’t. It motivates me; it doesn’t move me in a negative way”, he said about the yearly chatter about him being on the hot seat. “I embrace it in that way, because I appreciate the fact that people care, and I try to relay that to our players so that we wear it in the right way. And we utilize it as fuel. I think that’s the thing here, but make no mistake. All of that is possible because of how steady Art Rooney is in the midst of adversity”.

The only control that you have over what is said of you is in your work, and particularly in your results. If people are saying that your job is in jeopardy because you’re not winning enough, your reaction should be to agree that the results are lacking and must improve. The criticism is valid even if the conclusion is in question.

Beating a quality opponent on the road, though, was a good way for the Steelers to start the 2021 regular season following an offseason that was filled with questions, many predicting that they won’t even post a winning record, let along make the postseason. Already, expectations have been subverted for many. But can they keep it going?

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