In a season filled with many ups and downs in an almost roller coaster-like fashion, the Pittsburgh Steelers were somehow, some way, able to ride that roller coaster to the end, resulting in a playoff berth with a young team covered with warts.
The credit for that, star defensive captain Cameron Heyward said Thursday during his weekly media session, had to do with the approach that Steelers’ longtime head coach Mike Tomlin has taken. It wasn’t so much riding the roller coaster, Heyward said. Instead, it was about paddling the canoe under Tomlin, staying steady, level-headed and overly calm in choppy waters.
What an analogy that sums up Coach Tomlin to, well, a T.
“If I could compare it, it’s not a rollercoaster. We’re basically canoeing out there,” Heyward said to reporters Thursday, according to video via Steelers.com. “We’re…just staying level. He doesn’t get out of character. He doesn’t have to do anything different, but you know, he preaches the same goals, whether it’s stopping the run, understanding situational football, being in our face about it.
“Being honest with us, and when you understand your goals, it allows you to expect that from yourself and not accept anything less,” Heyward added.
Though the Steeles have certainly struggled to stop the run and play sound situational football this season for large stretches, Heyward’s message regarding Tomlin’s approach matches what others have said about the longtime Steelers’ head coach in a trying season. When things turned difficult for stretches during the season, including a tough 1-3 start and then dropping three of four down the stretch before winning three of the final four, Tomlin was right there guiding the ship through the choppy waters with the same message.
During his Tomlin Tuesday press conference, Tomlin himself deflected a bit regarding the impact his leadership and guidance played, stating that it is his job to do that, so no praise is necessary.
“I don’t wanna make a big deal out of that,” Tomlin said Tuesday, according to video via Steelers.com. “That is my job. Football is an emotional game, played by high energy men who are really emotional. And so they need to hear a steady voice. They need to hear consistency and messaging and belief. And so, it’s my job to exemplify that.”
However, with such a young team that is largely rebuilding on the fly, to get into the playoffs this season with the league’s toughest schedule is nothing short of remarkable, and is arguably the best coaching job of his long, illustrious Hall of Fame career.
That canoe will undoubtedly hit choppy waters once again on Sunday on the road inside Arrowhead Stadium in a Wild Card matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Steelers have the right type of captain at the helm.