The Pittsburgh Steelers head to the crabby city to take on their arch foes, the Baltimore Ravens, in a game of momentous meaning for the career of Coach Mike Tomlin and for millions of Black and Gold fans around the world holding onto a last sliver of postseason hope.
Do you believe in miracles?
Do you believe in Head Coach Mike Tomlin?
Can he take a team that was once 3-7 and embarrassed in several games and transform them into a Super Bowl Championship squad? It’s all on the line this Sunday in a game so significant it was moved to prime time.
Sunday night under the lights. With the Steelers having a chance of still making it to the playoffs. From there? Who knows? Another Lombardi Trophy?
Okay…well if you don’t quite believe in THAT miracle, how about another much more subdued one?
How about Tomlin leading his team to two final victories this season and extending his remarkable streak of non-losing years?
Does that fire you up Steelers Nation?
If is doesn’t, you’re going to want to turn the volume down on the broadcast because that is ALL they will talking about during pre-game, during the game and after game. Tomlin’s historic non-losing season record.
It’s already a feature article on ESPN.
How do we feel about it? Let’s give it a Spin.
The Greatest Ever?
Let’s be really clear. Tomlin has already done an admirable job winning 5 out of his last 7 games. If Coach was able to rally his troops enough to beat the Ravens Sunday, then beat the Cleveland Browns for the last game of the season, then beat the odds and squeak into the playoffs, and then win a Wildcard game, and then continue to win through the AFC Championship game, and then win this year’s Super Bowl game…then…and you’re reading this in print…
He would establish himself as the greatest Steelers coach ever. Done.
However, his team may lose to the Ravens in Baltimore. They could even be bludgeoned in front of tens of thousands of purple-clothed frothing at the mouth people. We’ve seen that happen before.
He could beat the Ravens and then lose the last game of the year against the Cleveland Browns, a team he should probably beat. We’ve seen that happen before.
Or he could eke his team into the playoffs and suffer a 49-7 absolutely embarrassing defeat. We’ve seen that before.
What then? Do we extend his contract another 10 years? If you read the ESPN article, one would believe so regardless.
There really are two Coach Tomlins. The one who lives in the minds of everyone outside of Steelers Nation and the one who has his devoted followers and detractors within.
Regardless of any downplaying Tomlin speaks publicly about continuing his record of non-losing seasons, it does matter. To his players. To him. And to his legacy.
It’s a big deal. So deal with it.
The Problem With Winning
If you ask Tomlin in front of a microphone or even if you’re sitting around a table playing cards with him, his thoughts will be the same.
He is focused 100% on winning as many games as he can. He’s only focused on the game ahead. That’s good. It’s good coaching.
However, at the franchise level, the question becomes are you better having five years in a row at .500 or are you better at going through some serous lows to get to the greatest highs?
Some people misstate this as “tanking”. Purposely trying to lose games. That’s a ridiculous take on “rebuilding” except when referring to actions by some of the most corrupt of organizations.
Yet, it is ignorant to not recognize there is a totally different long term strategic approach between retooling an entire organization for future greatness, and to go completely “all in” on winning your next game.
From this angle, there is a problem at winning at all costs.
There are several teams in the National Football League who are dominant today because of hard decisions they made in the recent past. They chose future greatness over merely winning the next game.
This isn’t an argument for one over the other. It’s a recognition that there are two very distinct and valid approaches.
Can you build a new dynasty for the ages by barely ending up over .500 year after year?
If Tomlin pulls off another winning record this year, and then steps up to the podium and declares he’s happy with his entire coaching staff and roster as well as his approach to the game, then that’s an experiment that will probably be put to the test for the next five years…at least.
This is a statement I shared on a previous Spin and it generated so much argument, I can’t but resist to put it in print once again.
Cameron Heyward is the greatest Pittsburgh Steeler of this Millennium.
He is the Joe Greene of our time.
Sure. Snub him in the Pro Bowl selections and in naming him an All Pro. That’s other people talk. What matters is what is believed in Steelers Nation.
Ben Roethlisberger? Probably the most impactful player during this time period. The team rose and fell on Big Ben’s play and most of the time it soared to great reaches. Was he as unanimously loved and respected as a leader by his teammates as Cam? Nope.
Troy Polamalu? The most uniquely gifted of all the Steelers players during this time. An absolute marvel to watch. Yet was Troy one who would pull his teammates together and give them a solid tongue lashing when it was deserved whether they were on offense or defense? Nope.
It’s Cam who not only performs at an elite level on the field, game after game, year after year but who also offers so much more as a leader and an ambassador for the franchise. There have only been a handful of players in the team’s history who have represented the Steelers with such strength, unwavering commitment, and dignity.
Cam Heyward is the Steelers brand, through and through. He’s about teammates, family, Pittsburgh…and Steelers Nation.
And during those disappointing games and seasons, when there are other teammates who have their shoulders down, who are starting to accept defeat, there he is…Cam Heyward running forty yards down the field to make yet another tackle.
When Cam entered Acrisure Stadium last week in front of a packed roaring stadium carrying a waving flag honoring Franco Harris, there could be no better choice to assume this lofty role. Not this year, and not for the past twenty.
The Steelers may not make it to the playoffs. They may not even make it to the “Tomlin Line” of a winning season this year.
Still, the fact this game, after such a rough start to this season, is so meaningful and is as highly anticipated as it is…well, that’s a minor miracle in and of itself.
Pittsburgh will be taking on the Baltimore Ravens in enemy territory. These are Ravens with a wounded wing once again as their star quarterback Lamar Jackson has already been declared out of this game.
It didn’t matter last game (remarkably, played just a few weeks ago) as Baltimore routed the Steelers into the turf. Regardless of playing with a backup quarterback, the Ravens are a playoffs bound team once again on the rise.
If the Steelers win in hostile territory, it will be a significant victory. One that could bring some additional joy to a mostly bleak year for the team and its fans.
There is much on the line for the Steelers players, the coaches and for some level of bragging rights in the division.
This is one game you don’t miss. Regardless of records.
There will be major fireworks on the first evening of the New Year and let’s hope they are sparkling in Black and Gold.