Tomlin Unfazed By Steelers’ Sudden Short Week: ‘We’ll Be There’

Mike Tomlin doesn’t care about when the Pittsburgh Steelers play their regular-season finale. Sunday, Saturday, a Thursday morning at 4 AM. Just roll the ball out and play.

That was his response when asked about the NFL’s decision to push the Steelers’ Week 18 game against the Baltimore Ravens, originally scheduled for Sunday, up 24 hours to Saturday at 4:30 PM/EST. As he’s answered all these types of questions over the years, Tomlin didn’t bat an eye to the schedule shakeup. In fact, he expected it.

“We have no reaction,” he said via the team’s YouTube channel. “You give us a date, a time, a game location, an opponent we’ll be there. That’s what we do. There’s a certain level of anticipation regarding it. I’ve been in the league a while. I kind of know how these things might unfold. It’s insignificant.”

Tomlin noted that the only challenge will be the coaching staff having one less day to prepare. But the reps will remain the same, three days of practice, just moved up one day. The Steelers can draw on their Saturday experience to help ready them. This will be their third Saturday game of the season, also playing on that day in Weeks 15 and 16, the first time they’ve played three such games in a year since 1954.

Pittsburgh and Baltimore will kick off the NFL’s final week of the regular season. Theirs will be one of two games on Saturday, the afternoon/evening game followed by the nightcap between the Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts.

Facing a known opponent like the Ravens helps the Steelers prepare, Tomlin noted.

“When they first start playing Thursday night games, it was oftentimes the second time you play the division opponent. Because that strategy component of the familiarity from a planning perspective is more fluid. That’s probably our mindset and my mindset regarding this,” he said. “It’s a short week, but it’s a highly familiar opponent.”

There are pros and cons to being the first game on the schedule. Though Tomlin made it clear that neither he nor the team cares about scoreboard watching, there is a benefit to that not being a factor when the Steelers step inside the Ravens’ stadium. The first and only game at kickoff, there will be a sole focus on beating Baltimore without the hint or thought of what’s happened or is happening around the NFL.

That distraction was felt in the team’s 2019 finale, a similar set of circumstances facing a Ravens team resting its starters while the Steelers needed a win and help to snag a Wild-Card spot. It became clear in-game that Pittsburgh wasn’t getting the breaks to go its way, and the Steelers waned in the second half as the Ravens ran all over them in a 28-10 win.

The downside is the Steelers could have a long wait before they find out their playoff status. The cleanest path for Pittsburgh to make the playoffs is to win and have either the Jacksonville Jaguars or Buffalo Bills lose. Jacksonville will play the Tennessee Titans Sunday at 1 PM/EST but Buffalo doesn’t play until Game 272, Sunday night and the final regular-season game when it takes on the Miami Dolphins in a battle for the AFC East. Meaning, if Pittsburgh and Jacksonville win and no other quirky things happening like the Colts and Texans tying, the Steelers will have to wait until SNF and watch Buffalo to determine their playoff fate.

Right now, all that matters is beating Baltimore. While losing to the Ravens wouldn’t eliminate the Steelers from playoff contention, it would take a lot of help for Pittsburgh to get in, requiring the Denver Broncos to win, the Jaguars to lose, and the Colts/Texans not tying. If the Steelers can’t handle their business on Saturday, they can’t complain if things don’t go their way Sunday.


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