By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — If there’s one thing that hasn’t been lacking from the Steelers in recent years, it’s bulletin board material from their head coach — specifically as it relates to the Patriots.
The most recent offering from Mike Tomlin came in an interview with Tony Dungy prior to Sunday night’s game, in which Tomlin said he believes his Steelers should “win it all.” That part is to be expected — contending teams probably shouldn’t bother suiting up on Sundays if they don’t believe they should be winning a championship — but Tomlin gave a little extra in discussing the Week 15 meeting between the Steelers and the Patriots.
“I’m going to embrace the elephant in the room,” Tomlin told Dungy regarding the game against the Patriots. “There’s going to be fireworks. But it’s probably going to be part one. You know?”
Tomlin’s indication, if you didn’t catch it, was that the Steelers will likely be seeing the Patriots more than once before the 2017 season comes to an end.
“You’ll burn more fuel trying to pretend like that doesn’t exist than just to acknowledge the elephant in the room,” Tomlin said. “Man, that’s going to be a big game. But probably if we’re both doing what we’re supposed to do, the second one is really going to be big and what happens in the first is going to set up the second one. It’s going to determine the location of the second one. You know?”
On the Steelers’ official website, Tomlin stood by his comments.
“He asked for non-coachspeak, so I was having a conversation with an old friend,” Tomlin said. “Everybody in America knows that’s a big game. We couldn’t deny that if we wanted to. You guys are going to ask us about it between now and then, so I stand by the statement.”
What Tomlin is doing is essentially engaging in the conversations that everyone else in the country involved in football is having. The Steelers and Patriots are both 9-2, they both should be 10-2 after next week, and they’ll both probably be 11-2 when they finally meet at Heinz Field in Week 15. With nobody else really in the picture for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, that meeting probably will determine home-field advantage for the playoffs.
The difference is that you just don’t often hear NFL coaches say such things in the middle of a season. But then again, you don’t often hear NFL head coaches refer to their upcoming opponents as “A-holes” when they don’t realize they’re being broadcast on Facebook Live by their star wide receivers.
In the meanwhile, the Steelers need to clean up a few things if they really want to get that second meeting with the Patriots. They squeaked past the moribund Colts two weeks ago, and they barely eked out a win over the 5-6 Packers on Sunday night, needing last-second field goals to win both games. They’re certainly looking at this moment like the team most likely to stand in the way of the Patriots reaching the Super Bowl for the third time in four seasons, but for the coach to already be looking ahead to an AFC Championship Game is probably ill-advised.
In Tomlin’s 11 years as Steelers head coach, his teams have gone 2-6 vs. the Patriots. Included in those eight games are a Steelers win over Matt Cassel and a Patriots win over Landry Jones, The Patriots beat the Steelers twice last season, first by a 27-16 margin at Heinz Field in October and then by a 36-17 margin in the AFC Championship Game in Foxboro.