Amidst a rash of injuries, the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to post a winning record for the first time in the Mike Tomlin era. Worse still, they dropped five of their final seven games after a 6-3 start to finish 8-8 on the season.
That’s not why Tomlin is leading his squad through a particularly physical training camp by current NFL standards, though. Pittsburgh’s third head coach of the Super Bowl era just rolls that way; he knows no other way to properly prepare his players other than to replicate actual football conditions.
“It really is kind of twofold for me,” he tells Tiki, Brandon, and Dana on The Morning Show. “First, I’m not concerned about what other guys are doing. And number two, I’ve just got to get these guys the type of atmosphere that’s conducive to us being what we need to be.”
“We got young guys, we got guys fighting for positions, and if we mean what we say in terms of giving them an equal opportunity to compete, then we got to roll the ball out and play football,” Tomlin elaborates. “That’s the only way to sort through it.”
From rebuilding the running game to replacing Mike Wallace to maintaining the trademark Steeler defense, Tomlin will need new guys and old to step up and maximize their abilities. Fortunately, he trusts in his preseason process to get the team where it needs to be.
“That’s what we’re coming here for: to develop as individuals and as a group, and define ourselves, define player personalities collectively,” Tomlin explains. “So it’s a process that we’re going through, and I don’t necessarily see the end result right now. It’s kind of organic. It grows.”
The results last season did not reflect the work the coach and his players put into the campaign ahead. It can be rationalized away that Pittsburgh was playing shorthanded and actually better than its record (the Steelers had a plus-22 point differential), but Tomlin isn’t having any of that.
“You’re not going to find excuses from me,” he says. “The results are on tape; we didn’t do what was necessary to win those games, and thus we ended up 8-8, we’re on the outside looking in. I don’t run away from that, I don’t try to make excuses for that, or try to explain it away.”
“It was what it was, but obviously we’re here at camp this year, building for this year,” he adds. “We’re not going to tote the bag of 2012, to be honest with you, and I’d have that mentality had we won the Super Bowl.”
As always, that’s the goal for Tomlin and company this year. But first, the Steelers have to get back to their usual place in the playoffs.
“This is not a continuation of what’s gone on for us in the past. We’re working with this group trying to get them ready to chase our goals for this year and ultimately be world champs.”