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Thread: Coach’s experience can help

  1. #1
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    Coach’s experience can help

    by Bob Labriola, Editor

    Mike Tomlin has been here before.

    That’s certainly true in the literal sense, because this is his second season as the coach of a Steelers team heading into the playoffs. But there’s another way in which Tomlin has been here before, and in that discussion “here” is defined as the start of a wide open tournament with a team that’s as good as any in it.

    The Steelers will open the 2008 NFL playoffs right back here at Heinz Field on the weekend of Jan. 10-11 against an opponent to be
    determined by the activity over Wild Card weekend. Their official
    status is No. 2 seed in the AFC, but the difficulty of the schedule the
    Steelers navigated to finish 12-4 is enough to give them the confidence
    to handle the close games against good teams that characterize January football.

    They have flaws, but perfection was the story in the NFL last year.

    There is no Tom Brady. There is no powerhouse team. There is no insurmountable home-field advantage.

    Everybody is good. But everybody can get beat, too.

    What makes it even more interesting is that everybody can get beat by these Steelers. Which brings it around to the impact Mike Tomlin
    can have in these playoffs, the impact Mike Tomlin is going to have to
    have if these Steelers are to be winning the games in these playoffs that end with trophy presentations.

    For the purposes of hyperbole, the job of NFL coach often is compared
    to one that asks a person to work with a lot of different ingredients to
    come up with a finished product. Chef. Conductor of an orchestra.
    What’s different for the coach, though, is the chef has all the ingredients he needs; the maestro always has all the best musicians. The great coach makes do with what he has.

    What Tomlin has with these Steelers is a team made up of hyper-competitive players who truly seem to care more about the winning than anything else. Sure, a bunch of them want to be the hero, but even at that it’s still more about the winning than anything else. It’s a veteran team that lines up and brings it physically on every play of every game.

    But when you get down to the final eight teams, wanting to win and
    playing a physical style aren’t exactly unique qualities. Teams don’t
    get here without that.

    Making these Steelers unique, and potentially special, is their combination of defense and a quarterback.

    The Steelers defense is the best in football, and it’s the best because it
    isn’t bad anywhere. It stops the run, pressures the passer, covers, takes the ball away. It’s No. 1 in the red zone, No. 1 in yards allowed on first downs, tied for No. 1 in third-down efficiency. It has two pass rushers with double-digit sacks. It has one safety with a nose for the ball and another who’ll just as soon play the man as the ball.

    The quarterback is one of the league’s best, even though Ben
    Roethlisberger didn’t finish high in any of the statistical categories the
    league publishes weekly. A dropback, play-action, big-arm talent,
    Roethlisberger is being asked to add some quick-read, quick-release
    things to his repertoire and he hasn’t looked all that comfortable with it so far. But when it comes to these kinds of games, it’s more about what Ben Roethlisberger has.

    He has whatever it is that allows a quarterback to summon whatever is
    necessary from himself while also somehow inspiring others to do their
    best at the most critical times of games. Roethlisberger wears No. 7,
    and if he’s not John Elway quite yet, 92 yards in 12 plays with a touchdown pass to beat the Ravens in Baltimore and win the AFC North sure sounds a lot like “The Drive” to me.

    Roethlisberger is better than Joe Flacco or Kerry Collins. The Steelers
    defense is much better than the Colts’ or any of those AFC East teams’.

    Now, back to Tomlin.

    When he was just a second-year NFL assistant, Tomlin was part of
    one of those teams that won a championship with its defense. This goes way beyond the trite, “Defense wins championships” that gets thrown around every year at this time. This is about a defense that carried a team to a title, a defense so good that a punt became its own kind of weapon.

    The 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers had that kind of a defense, and these Steelers have more sacks and are better vs. the run. The New York Giants led the league in rushing and gained 2.4 a carry; Philip Rivers led in passer rating and posted a 43.6. Yes, a few more takeaways would be great, but those come in bunches and this group is due.

    The obvious weakness of this Steelers team is its running game,
    and then there’s the trickle-down effect that has on the rest of the offense. Because the Steelers can’t run the ball well enough for it to be a weapon, play-action has no impact, and short-yardage and goal-line situations are especially difficult.

    But as ineffective as the Steelers’ run game has been, Tampa Bay’s
    was worse statistically in 2002 when the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl. And they had Brad Johnson, who was old back then, at quarterback, not Roethlisberger.

    Tomlin knows how the Buccaneers won that Lombardi, with a great defense and with an offense that was most opportunistic in how it
    didn’t put the defense in any bad spots. He knows it can be done by
    protecting the ball and being patient, and he has seen his quarterback win those kinds of games with some timely heroics.

    He knows it can happen, because he was a part of it happening.

    Mike Tomlin has been here before.

  2. #2

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    Re: Coach’s experience can help

    Interesting comparison to Tampa.

  3. #3
    Pro Bowler

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    Re: Coach’s experience can help

    I hope Coach T realizes that we need a good dose a Mewelde at the RB!!!


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