Ron Cook: Tomlin, Roethlisberger embrace pressure entering wild-card game
January 5, 2016 12:00 AM
Mike Tomlin celebrates with Steelers fans after beating the Browns Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio.
By Ron Cook / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Much will be made this week about the Cincinnati Bengals’ and Steelers’ recent playoff failures. The Bengals are 0-6 in postseason games under coach Marvin Lewis. The Steelers haven’t won a playoff game since the AFC championship after the 2010 season, losing to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV, the Denver Broncos in the wild-card round after the 2011 season and the Baltimore Ravens in the wild-card round last season.
My guess is you care more about the Steelers’ streak. That’s why I asked Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger about it.
“I’m not looking for nuggets of success,” Tomlin said. “I don’t want to hang my hat on and feel good because I won a playoff game in recent years. That doesn’t change the fact that I haven’t won a Super Bowl [since the 2008 season].
“You’ve got to be very conscious in the ways that you challenge yourself and the ways you seek comfort. Talking about playoff games and playoff wins, that’s right for most. But that’s not the standards that we have around here. Sure, we need to win playoff games, but those are nuggets you pick up along the way in terms of what you’re singularly focused on.”
Tomlin has had a remarkable nine-year run with the Steelers. He is one of the three best coaches in the NFL. His 92 regular-season wins tie him for fourth among NFL coaches in their first nine seasons. His record is 92-52, and he has not had a losing season.
Tomlin is 5-4 in the postseason. He led the Steelers to a win in Super Bowl XLIII after the 2008 season and to that loss to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV.
Tomlin’s assessment of his career?
“I’ve had one successful season. That’s it. I mean that.”
Roethlisberger also has accomplished amazing things since coming to the Steelers as their No. 1 pick in 2004. His 113-56 record as a starter ranks fifth among active NFL quarterbacks. He owns virtually all of the Steelers passing records.
Roethlisberger is 10-5 in the postseason. He led the Steelers to wins in Super Bowl XL after the 2005 season and in Super Bowl XLIII. He was on the losing end in the Super Bowl against the Packers.
Roethlisberger made one of the iconic postseason throws in Steelers history, the 6-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes to beat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. But he did not play as well in the postseason losses to the Packers, Broncos and Ravens, throwing for four touchdowns with five interceptions.
“We’re not going to worry about what we’ve done in the last couple of years. I’m not going to worry about what I’ve done,” Roethlisberger said.
“I’m going to say, ‘Here’s what we’ve done in the past. Here’s what I’ve done. We’ve had a lot of success.’ I’m going to look back at some of the postseason games I’ve had and think about what it was like. That’s what I’m going to talk to the team about. We’ve just got to give it everything we have this week. Last season doesn’t matter.”
The Steelers should have a huge advantage at quarterback Saturday night. The Bengals starter is unclear — Andy Dalton, who hasn’t played since his right thumb was fractured Dec. 13 in a game against the Steelers, or backup AJ McCarron. Dalton is 0-4 in the postseason with six interceptions and just one touchdown pass. McCarron hasn’t played in a playoff game.
The Steelers are 2½-point favorites.
“I love these games,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s all or nothing. Every week is a Game 7. We’re the only sport that you can’t have a bad game and keep playing. You literally have to be at your best and have your best game every week.
“You want the opportunity. Like I said, it’s Game 7. Guys who want to take the last shot, guys who want the ball in their hands … I’m that guy. That’s what it’s all about.”
The pressure on the Bengals Saturday night will be enormous. They were considered a Super Bowl favorite, at least until Dalton was hurt. They are playing at home. The crowd at Paul Brown Stadium could turn on them if they get off to a slow start.
But there also will be great pressure on Tomlin and Roethlisberger. A lot of people here want Tomlin fired even after the Steelers win. It’s ridiculous, really. You can imagine the noise if the Steelers lose to the Bengals. The franchise hasn’t gone five years without a playoff win since the end of the Bill Austin era and the start of the Chuck Noll era. There also will be questions about Roethlisberger as a big-game quarterback if the Steelers lose. He already has heard them.
Bring it on, Tomlin said.
Ditto, Roethlisberger said.
Ron Cook: email@example.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the “Cook and Poni” show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
firstname.lastname@example.org and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.