Mike Tomlin offered a classic one-liner three years ago when asked about the Steelers playing three games over a 12-day span. Never one to make excuses, Tomlin wasn't going to allow Pittsburgh's COVID-impacted schedule to serve as a possible out for himself and his team.
"We do not care," Tomlin said while inadvertently echoing a line that would join his famous list of isms.
Tomlin basically said the same thing on Tuesday when he was asked about the outside hype regarding his team ahead of Pittsburgh's season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. The Steelers' longtime coach was specifically asked how he handles any possible comments from those close to him who have bought into the hype.
"They know better to feed me anything, because I do not care," Tomlin said. "I just respect the process, the professional component of what we do. And I ask my guys to remain singularly focused and ignore outside noise. It's really irrelevant in terms of our growth and development and trajectory of what we're doing, and so, I stay away from those things, and particularly those that you mentioned that are close to me know not to delve into that."
The irony is that, while optimism in Pittsburgh is high, the Steelers aren't generating the same buzz nationally. Pittsburgh's estimated win total, for example, has been set at an uninspiring nine games, according to Caesars Sportsbook. The Steelers are currently set at 2.5-point underdogs for Sunday's home game against a 49ers team George Kittle and Nick Bosa.Pro Bowlers
Regardless, Tomlin knows that outside narratives have little or no impact on what happens on the field of play. There have been years (like in 2018) when Tomlin's team missed the playoffs after being a preseason Super Bowl favorite. Conversely, there have been other years (like 2019) when Pittsburgh overachieved after many on the outside had already thrown in the (Terrible) towel.
One thing that not even Tomlin can deny, though, is the roster he, Steelers GM Omar Khan and assistant Andy Weidl put together during the offseason that has led to the optimism currently brewing in Pittsburgh. The Steelers, by all accounts, had a successful offseason that included the acquisition of several talented players via free agency and during the draft. Pittsburgh specifically improved its roster on the offensive line, both linebacker positions and also added weapons at the skill positions in former Pro Bowl wideout Allen Robinson and rookie tight end Darnell Washington.
Furthermore, Steelers fans are anticipating a big year from Kenny Pickett, who generated a perfect passer rating during the preseason while directing the Steelers offense to five touchdowns in as many drives.
Put it all together, and Steelers fans are bracing themselves for what should be an entertaining 2023 season. Tomlin, however, remains focused on the task at hand, and that's preparing to face a 49ers team Sunday that has appeared in the last two NFC conference title games.
"They're just a really really good and sound group," Tomlin said of the 49ers. "And so, obviously, there's a lot of things that have our attention as you lean in on the first game, the 49ers and what they're capable of, but probably more importantly, and it's probably the attitude that everyone shares this time of year. It's more about what it is that we do, how we divide the labor up, our readiness, the appropriateness of our planning, the understanding that our players are capable of displaying and how we finish. How conditioning becomes a factor early in the season as the number of snaps and weather conditions and so forth become a factor at 1 p.m. in September, and things of that nature. So we know and understand that. We've got a lot of irons in the fire.
"We got a lot of work to do. We're excited about doing it. That's what's happening on a day like today."