Mike Tomlin doesn’t listen to “elevator music,” the moniker the Pittsburgh Steelers coach has given to steady stream of outside chatter about his team. Tomlin would prefer his players walk to their own beat, one that is unaffected by the weekly ups and downs of an NFL season.
It’s why Tomlin took special care to tout rookie Le’veon Bell’s season-high 93-yard performance in a 19-16 win over Baltimore last week.
“I felt the need to assure him that he’s doing the right things,” Tomlin said, later adding “I want him to listen to what matters.”
It’s a message that resonates through Pittsburgh’s locker room. Even as the team stumbled to its worst start in more than four decades, the confidence level in the locker room never wavered.
If anything, it’s on the rise.
Pittsburgh’s narrow escape against the Ravens gave the Steelers (2-4) a boost heading into a Sunday’s game in Oakland (2-4). After a lifeless and lethargic September when Pittsburgh looked like a team in significant decline, things have perked up in October thanks to a refresher course on what it takes to win the NFL.
The defense is preventing touchdowns. The offense is moving the ball and perhaps more importantly, holding onto it. The kicker has been lights out and the sense all is not lost has grown from a notion into something more substantial.
“We believed from the start,” linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. “Even when we were 0-4, we still believed we had the opportunity to turn this thing around.”
Even if the process is proving to be painful.
Woodley, who collected his fifth sack of the season against Baltimore, will be limited in practice this week after injuring his right knee. The same goes for left tackle Kelvin Beachum and defensive end Brett Keisel, both of whom are dealing with rib problems.
Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday all three players could be available for Sunday’s game in Oakland (2-4). The same goes for linebacker Lawrence Timmons, who broke a bone in his left hand late in the third quarter against Baltimore but stayed on the field and ended up tying a career-high with 17 tackles.
Timmons had a cast placed on the busted hand Monday and has the use of his fingers and his presence on the field will be crucial if the Steelers want to keep free-wheeling Raiders quarterback Tyrelle Pryor from getting loose.