I had a conversation with Mike Tomlin during the preseason last August about visiting Pittsburgh and outlining his career and thoughts. He agreed to do it in March, so it was simply a follow-up to establish, I thought. But Tomlin said he was wrong. He said he was more than willing to talk about his team. But your thoughts? About himself? Your focus? No, it's not his deal, he said.
The Pittsburgh media can attest that it has been Tomlin's method for almost all of his 11 seasons as head coach of Pittsburgh.
So, let's give Tony Dungy excellent credit for his NBC interview with Tomlin on Sunday night cracked Tomlin's steel curtain. Tomlin told Dungy that Pittsburgh should win the Super Bowl, that he was already thinking about the Patriots Week 15 game and that they would probably meet again in the playoffs.
The reaction around the National Football League was shocking.
stuck in Tomlin? Why so bold? Why this public course out of character? Of course, it was the Steelers receiver Antonio Brown who recorded the private message of Tomlin, full of expletives, of the Patriots to his team before the game for the AFC championship and published it on social networks so everyone could hear it . The NFL coaches think and say a lot of salty things in private, so it was entertaining but not surprising. Rarely do NFL coaches really raise such specific things, aimed at the opponent, so boldly in public.
Here's what I see: Mike Tomlin has a problem with the Patriots.
The league itself. But the Steelers have their own intense Patriots problem, their own Patriots complex. It's clearly bigger than the Jets, Dolphins and Bills, the old dwarves of the Patriots AFC Eastern Division, and that's a mouthful. The Patriots have been consistently good and occasionally good for so long, sometimes dominant, that their envy usually becomes wild and deep. Tomlin reveals that the Patriots are not only in his mind but in his head.
All of Tomlin's private talk last season before the AFC championship game was just the stage for Patriots 36, Steelers 17. New England up 10-0 in the first quarter. New England ahead 17-9 at halftime. New England with a 16-0 in the third quarter. New England in the Super Bowl and the championship.
The Steelers were ambushed in that game. Manhandled.
Tomlin is not over. Right, then. He has a problem with the Patriots.
And until the Steelers really show they can handle the Patriots, their talk is just talk. Your table is simply fanfare.
Pittsburgh is there with New England, both 9-2, with the Steelers 31-28 winners over Green Bay on Sunday night. They have divisional games against the Bengals and the Ravens before they see the Patriots. I hope Pittsburgh loses at least one of those games.
And I hope if will face New England again in the playoffs, they will lose it again.
These are your Patriots Problem: New England is the best team with the most confidence and the mental advantage of knowing they can make the Steelers break.
For Tomlin, for his Steelers, they have Patriots in their brains.
New England typically wins "head games".
The NFC South race features New Orleans with 8-3, Carolina second with 8-3 and Atlanta third with 7-4. This division includes the defending champion of the NFC, Atlanta, and highlights the off-season plays that created New Orleans and Carolina to catch up.
It's not unusual to find three NFL teams fighting for a divisional crown with five games remaining. in the regular season. But what is rare is the way they will cross paths, their direct conflict in the last five weeks that will untangle the traffic jam and create the truth.
New Orleans plays against Atlanta twice. Atlanta ends the season in Carolina. After Carolina plays in New Orleans this week, she faces the tough Vikings. Atlanta is the host of the Vikings this weekend.
That is a representative sample of confrontations with familiarity and intrigue. Some people in the league give Atlanta the advantage and quarterback Matt Ryan over Drew Brees and Cam Newton. Ryan is the Most Valuable Player in the league and the Falcons are the reigning champions of the division.
Others like Carolina's chances for this reason: they are the best in division 5-1 in road games. With two left in New Orleans and in Atlanta they are more suitable for road conflict.
Due to the way your schedule falls, your dexterity on the road and Newton's pbading skill, I give Carolina the advantage.
D.J. Foster is an example of the patience and endurance of the NFL.
This runner averaged 5.3 yards per run as a runner for the state of Arizona and was projected as a fifth-round pick in 2016. But he was not drafted. He signed as a free agent last year with the Patriots and recovered on and off his list. He was placed in his practice squad on September 2.
But the Arizona Cardinals missed it on September 12.
And Foster was there on Sunday night doing that thrilling 12-yard catch on the floor final seconds that set Phil Dawson's 57-yard field goal in a 27-24 victory at Arizona home over Jacksonville.
Four days earlier, Foster had celebrated his 24th birthday.
"He's just learning, he's just growing, but he's dynamic with the ball in his hands," said Cardinals catchers coach Darryl Drake. . "He ran a route there, he beat the linebacker and he knew where he was on the sideline, that way, he did not have to look down, he focused on catching the ball, he has kept the course, it takes an incredible maturity for a man to join a team in September, be a few weeks learning and then make a play like that. "
The victory led Arizona to 5-6 and injected hope into their playoff prospects.