PITTSBURGH – With the rest of Pittsburgh on the edge of their collective seat watching the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders late Sunday night, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was asleep.
Tomlin admitted he didn’t see Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson’s overtime winning field goal that ultimately sent his team to the playoffs.
“I dozed off,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “I knew I had a workday ahead of me, or I assumed there was a workday ahead of me. I think at one point, [the Raiders] were up to 15, and that number made you a little bit at ease.
“I’m probably better off not watching it.”
He’s not the only Steeler who missed the end of the match in real time. Wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud got together with a few teammates to watch the game, but because they kept rewinding it, the group were behind the live stream when Carlson’s placement prevented a tie that would have kept the Steelers (9-7-1) out of the playoffs.
“My little brother called me,” McCloud said Monday. “He was like, ‘This is rigged, my brother. This is rigged.’ Then he called me back and said, “You are good, you are good.”
“I was like, ‘Did they do it?’ So when I watched it personally I already knew they did. It was really a relief. It was a fun game.
Now that the Steelers – who had just a 9% chance of making the playoffs before the final day of the regular season, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index – are in the playoffs, the challenge is tall. They will face the Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) in the AFC Wildcard Round at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. Just three weeks ago, the visiting Steelers were beaten by the Chiefs 36-10.
“They treated us and definitely treated us,” Tomlin said. “And so we understand that. But at the same time, we’re not paralyzed by it. We accept that we didn’t play well enough last time. We accept that we didn’t plan well enough last time. But this is the last time. “
Tomlin also admitted that it wasn’t quite a performance his team could gain a lot from.
“I don’t know how much you are learning from it, to be completely honest with you,” he said. “They crushed us so definitely. More than anything, it’s like a reboot.”
In that game, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes completed 23 of 30 attempts for 258 yards and three touchdowns, while Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger came out early and threw for 159 yards and one touchdown with an interception. .
Since then, the Steelers have beaten back-to-back wins over the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens to reach the playoffs.
“I can’t say enough about the group,” said Tomlin. “Their buy-in, their fight, their selflessness. You’re not in this tournament unless you’re all of these things and more.
“We don’t think we’re unique from the 13 other teams, but we appreciate what we had to do to be a part of this field.”
The last two wins were in part fueled by the urgency of Roethlisberger’s latest – his last home game and his last regular season game. And Tomlin said it was “our intention” to keep riding this wave.
He also said that the experience of those close games coupled with the roller coaster of the season should help his club in the playoffs.
“We collectively feel comfortable in a lot of circumstances where most are uncomfortable,” said Tomlin. “I think we’ve been toughened up by this process. It hasn’t been an easy journey for us, and I think we feel comfortable with these scenarios.
“… I think we are able to perform individually and collectively through this experience. Hope this helps us as we progress into the playoffs. We understand the playoffs are on a different level. “