As I anticipated—and as was fair—the hot topic around these parts yesterday, other than the evil Todd Haley yelling at the poor and delicate 6’5” hulking quarterback whose nickname has ‘big’ in it, was the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers took a last-second field goal to beat a bad Colts team.
What made it worse for many is the fact that the Steelers were coming out of their bye week. And making it worse still was the fact that the team lost their three previous games coming out of the bye week, even while still managing to do so in 8-8 seasons of 2012 and 2013.
“Sometimes you are going to start slow coming out of a bye”, Head Coach Mike Tomlin said yesterday during his press conference, as rarely and unsettling deviation from Tomlin Tuesday on a Mike Monday. “You hate it. You hate to even acknowledge it, but you acknowledge that it exists. Hopefully it will be less of an issue for us this week”.
Said Steelers defensive captain Cameron Heyward, who was arguably the best player on the field for either side, “There’s a teachable moment in everything”, according to Aditi Kinkhabwala. “The question is”, he added, “do you learn from it?”.
Early in the game, both sides of the ball were spending too much time losing what Tomlin has taken to calling possession downs. The offense was not extending drives by converting on third down and the defense was not getting off the field by stopping the Colts on third down.
That tide slowly turned over the course of the second half, and they were ultimately able to prevail, with both the offense and defense showing better in the second half as opposed to the third. Outside of one bad play that led to a 61-yard touchdown, the defense held the Colts’ offense in check, while the offense put up 17 second-half points, all unanswered.
The slow start out of the bye week is going to be a tough sell for this crowd, I’m sure. After all, Tomlin’s teams were 6-1 in his first seven seasons after the bye week. A number of widely-respected coaches have an extremely good post-bye record. So why should a team be slow to get back into it?
As Heyward indicated, there is a lesson to be learned here, and one the team had better figure out, because the way they are headed, it is looking like they have a very good chance of having a week off through the first round of the playoffs this season. They can’t afford to start slow in the Divisional Round.