On the off day before the team’s preseason finale against the Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin talked to the University of Pittsburgh basketball team about seeking discomfort.
“It is a common human trait to want to seek comfort. And so, let’s acknowledge that first and foremost. When you’re born, you’re babies, you cry, you’re hungry, you cry, you’re sleepy, you cry, people accommodate you. When you start crying those are the signals that you send out that I am uncomfortable and I need to be fixed,” Tomlin said via the Pitt Basketball Twitter account.
“When we get older, man, we remove ourselves from uncomfortable circumstances. We seek comfort. We’re sleepy, we take naps. We’re hungry, we eat, etcetera, etcetera. If you’re really chasing rare air in any space like basketball, you’ve gotta commit to being uncomfortable in basketball, because that’s the only platform for growth.”
While his speech here was tailored towards basketball, a lot of the same aspects apply in football. Sometimes, you have to be uncomfortable in order to get the best results. That’s usually how things work when it comes to playing sports at a high level. The phrase “leave it all on the field” is one that might be overused, but it is certainly applicable to athletes who are playing at the D1 or professional level.
In sports, the example of being uncomfortable applies to when someone might be close to or at their physical limit. Instead of going to the bench, pushing through the pain and finishing off a drive or a possession shows that sort of discomfort Tomlin is talking about.
Those moments where a guy pushes past his perceived limit and is able to continue to keep contributing for his team are the ones where you can see that growth and development. When it’s late in the fourth quarter and someone is able to step up and make a key play to keep his team in the game are the moments that really can show growth, especially in young players.
From Tomlin’s end, the topic of the speech is a great one for a college basketball team, especially to a Pitt team that has struggled the past few years and has dealt with a lot of attitude issues in the Jeff Capel era. Despite the speech being tailored to Pitt basketball, surely those same lessons have been imparted to the Steelers and their young players for years.
Being physically and mentally tough is extremely important in the NFL, and under Tomlin, players have been able to show that strength. It’s when they leave Pittsburgh where some flaws start to come out, but while guys are playing for the Steelers, there usually haven’t been issues. Let’s hope that continues to be the case, but regardless, the lessons Tomlin is teaching will remain applicable for years to come.