Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin ‘not into that satisfaction word’
The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off what Mike Tomlin called “a big win for us” over the New England Patriots, their AFC arch-nemesis, so it only makes sense that their next game is against the team with the NFL’s best record.
The Steelers (8-5-1) have no time to rest for their visit to the Superdome in New Orleans, even if they have one more day of preparation than the Saints (12-2) will after playing on Monday Night Football.
“We understand that we’re playing a really good football team,” Tomlin said, “and we understand we’re playing a really good football team in their venue.”
The Steelers also are playing for their playoff lives, knowing they can clinch the AFC North with the combination of a win over the Saints and a Baltimore Ravens loss to the L.A. Chargers.
Five highlights from Tomlin’s weekly news conference:
1. Can’t get no: Tomlin didn’t hesitate when asked if he was satisfied with the performance of kicker Chris Boswell, who missed a 32-yard field goal in the third quarter but converted a 48-yarder late in the fourth against the Patriots.
“ I’m not into that satisfaction word,” Tomlin said. “We’re ready to move forward this week.”
That the Steelers moved forward with Boswell after his two missed field goals at Oakland was a decision that could have backfired on Tomlin. That was especially true after Kai Forbath, one of the kickers the Steelers had in for a tryout last week, made field goals of 33 and 41 yards for the Jaguars.
Tomlin won’t be satisfied until Boswell can attempt a kick without everyone holding their breath to see if it sails through the uprights.
2. Back to back: Jaylen Samuels never had 19 carries in a game at any level, let alone 100-plus yards, so Tomlin was asked what gave him confidence to believe that the rookie could deliver.
“Who said I had confidence?” Tomlin said, with a laugh. “He was our back. He was prepared, so we went into the stadium.”
That Samuels produced 142 rushing yards – an average of 7.5 per carry – after rushing for only 59 yards on 23 carries heading into the game. Tomlin might have tipped his hand about James Conner’s status for Sunday while elaborating on Samuels.
“Oftentimes, when you walk into a stadium as a young guy it is a first time for a lot of things,” Tomlin said. “I’m sure as he continues to step into stadiums in a significant role for us, he’ll check some boxes and do some things he hadn’t done before. But that’s just a very natural thing, in terms of a young player’s career.”
3. Still a rookie: The surprise of the injury report is that rookie strong safety Terrell Edmunds is in concussion protocol, something the Steelers might not have known about until Monday.
Edmunds has started 13 games this season, but Tomlin warned that Edmunds is still a rookie who is learning every week.
“You can get into that cute word play if you want, to motivate guys to play beyond their years or you can use it as an excuse,” Tomlin said. “The bottom line is, we’ve been a lot of ball with him all year. We expect him to play above-the-line winning football, like the other guys that have been on the field a lot.
“He is who he is. He is a rookie. He’s still a rookie. He’ll be a rookie all year and into the playoffs, if that’s a part of his story. But he’s done a good job. He’s gotten better every week.”
Problem is, if Edmunds can’t play the Steelers will have to turn to another rookie, Marcus Allen, who has played in only one game.
4. Getting defensive: Tomlin dismissed the notion that the Saints rank first in the NFL against the run at 79.1 yards a game because they built big leads that forced opponents to pass.
Tomlin noted that New Orleans is tied with Dallas for second in yards per attempt (3.7), a better indicator of the Saints’ ability to stop the run, regardless of circumstances.
“I look at what they are capable of,” Tomlin said. “They are capable of being dominant.”
Then again, Tomlin talked about the perception that the Saints love to pass by countering that “the reality is, this is a really strong, fundamental running team” with the one-two punch of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.
The Steelers, by comparison, rank third-to-last in the NFL in rushing yards a game (93.9) but average more yards per attempt (4.3) than the Saints (3.7).
5. Brady and Brees: After facing Philip Rivers, Derek Carr and Tom Brady, the Steelers will play a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback for the fourth consecutive week in Drew Brees.
Given Tomlin’s explanation for winning the coin toss and electing to receiver — “We didn’t want to give it to Brady,” he said – don’t be surprised if the Steelers do the same thing against the Saints.
When it came to containing Brady, Tomlin was willing to make “no bold statements regarding how we were able to keep him off balance – I don’t even know that to be true. I know we made enough plays to win the game. We better do the same this week.”
Tomlin also had an interesting explanation for the success behind long-standing coach-quarterback duos like the Patriots’ Brady and Bill Belichick, the Saints’ Brees and Sean Payton and himself and Ben Roethlisberger with the Steelers.
“Win games,” Tomlin said. “You’re not together for over a decade if you don’t. That’s just how it goes. The coach and the quarterback get run out of town.”
Tomlin never has had a losing season in 12 years with the Steelers, and a win in New Orleans would give Tomlin 125wins in his first 190 games. That’s a faster track than every coach in NFL history but Don Shula, Joe Gibbs, George Halas and Tony Dungy.
Winning Super Bowls helps, too.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at email@example.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.