The stat regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin in playoff atmospheres over the last decade or so is well known.
You’ve heard it all before, but here it is again: Three playoff wins in the last 10 years for Tomlin, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
Those were different teams, different seasons and different circumstances, but after the job Tomlin and the Steelers did to get into the playoffs this season at 9-7-1 with this roster and the amount of injuries it suffered, it’s nothing short of remarkable.
Now, the Steelers will have to make the trek to Kansas City for the second time in less than a month to take on the red-hot Chiefs, who have won 9 of their last 10 games and look once again like the favorite to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium Feb. 13 in Inglewood.
With a relatively young, playoff-inexperienced team, that could pose a problem for the Steelers under Tomlin. Ahead of the Sunday Night Football matchup with the Chiefs, though, Tomlin stated to reporters Tuesday during his weekly media availability that he’s not dwelling on the past playoff success of this core group of players. Rather, he’s dwelling on the playoff exposure and how well they’ve handled the intensity of the moment that comes with a playoff matchup.
“I’m not concerned about the success. I am concerned about the exposure,” Tomlin said to reporters Tuesday, according to video via Steelers.com. “And so, people understand what the environment is like, the intensity of it. How much detail is required, particularly to win in situational ball and things of that nature. Experience is good, whether it’s positive or negative…so I’m less concerned about the lack of success, and I’m more concerned about those who haven’t experienced it that play a significant role for us, some of which I mentioned.”
During his opening monologue in Tuesday’s press conference, Tomlin did address the lack of experience for some. However, he did state that the Steelers have become rather comfortable and hardened by the journey that the team needed to complete to simply get into the playoffs. Though the games down the stretch technically weren’t playoff games, they served as playoff-like atmospheres due to the weight the outcomes held on the Steelers living to fight another day.
That experience down the stretch should help the younger players on the roster who are in significant roles, Tomlin said.
“I think we’re collectively getting comfortable in many circumstances where most are uncomfortable,” Tomlin said. “I think we’ve been hardened by this process. It hasn’t been a easy journey for us. And I think that we are getting comfortable being in scenarios. And so I think we see those scenarios clearly. I think we’re able to communicate in the midst of some of that. I think we’re able to execute, individually and collectively, because of that experience.
“And so hopefully that helps us as we proceed into the playoffs. We know that the playoffs is a different level,” Tomlin added. “At least those of us that have been a part of it understand that the playoffs are a different level. I think that’s worth saying as well, we got a number of young guys who have gained quality experience through the course of this journey.”
Though experience in playoff situations certainly doesn’t lead directly to success, that experience gained down the stretch shouldn’t make the moment too big for the Steelers, especially against a playoff-hardened team like the Chiefs, who have reached two straight Super Bowls and three straight AFC championship games under the guidance of Andy Reid.