Former Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward jumped on Steelers Talk by Chat Sports for an interview with Harrison Graham prior to the Super Bowl which aired live on their YouTube channel.
Graham asked Ward about his upcoming season as the head coach of the XFL’s San Antonio Brahmas as well as his playing days in Pittsburgh. Later in the interview, Graham asked Ward about what makes Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin so great of a coach regarding his ability to connect with his players and avoid having a losing season since becoming Pittsburgh’s head coach back in 2007.
“I think for Mike Tomlin, the culture of accountability is what it is,” Ward said “He’s not going to make excuses. He really doesn’t care about outside noise. And that permeates through the team when they were going through their low time… that team didn’t blink. They just kept working their tails off and got better week by week. And you saw that in a young team, being that the Steelers are so young… that team could have easily quit. And the fact that they didn’t quit showed a lot of promise for a young team to keep battling the way they did and then salvage the season by finishing over .500.”
Plenty of current and former Steelers players lauded Mike Tomlin down the stretch as the team managed to go 7-2 after the bye, avoiding his first losing season as the Steelers finished 9-8 and nearly made it into the postseason. Ward’s former teammate Ryan Clark commended Tomlin during the team’s second-half surge, stating that Tomlin’s message never changes to his players regardless of if the team is on top of the AFC North and a favorite in the AFC or if the team is 2-6 and facing the worst season finish the franchise has seen in over a decade.
Tomlin and the Steelers could have easily mailed it in after a dreadful start to the 2022 season. They could have tanked to land a top-five pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and saw to it that OC Matt Canada lost his job after the offense looked abysmal to start the year. However, Tomlin has always stated that the standard is the standard, and that standard is winning and pursuing championships. No one was going to confuse the Steelers as a championship-caliber team in 2022, but Tomlin wasn’t going to let his players believe that as the team rallied together to nearly make the postseason after looking like one of the league’s worst teams to start the year.
Tomlin often tells his players “don’t blink”, referencing the need to stay steady amidst the storms. While this team has a long way to go to be considered title contenders and Tomlin has his own warts he needs to improve on when it comes to in-game management, the Pittsburgh Steelers showed a lot of growth as a young team last season just as Ward mentioned. They will have to re-tool the roster this offseason via free agency and the draft, but with several prominent players having another year of experience under their belts, this team should be in a position to compete for a playoff berth in 2023 and look to make some noise once they get into the dance.