Stephen A. . Smith explains why he doesn’t want the Steelers to end up unbeaten, and Ryan Clark is stunned by his thoughts. (2:14)
PITTSBURGH – When the video system used for virtual film study went down during the Wednesday meeting, Pittsburgh Steeler’s safety Minkah Fitzpatrick didn’t panic.
He alerted those who needed to know with a phone call and participated in the rest of this section through the call. After that, everyone switched to Zoom for the remainder of the meeting so Fitzpatrick could participate fully.
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« Something I’ve used is ‘adapt or die’ to put it dramatically, » said Fitzpatrick. « We always said that in South Florida. I think it’s a very accurate quote right now because there is something every day that you have to adapt to. And if you don’t, if you complain or feel too uncomfortable about it, it will keep you away from your game or give you thought about what to think about. «
In a season unparalleled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Steelers have mastered the art of adaptation. This is a big reason why they’re the only undefeated NFL team in week 11.
The Steelers’ stance comes from above with trainer Mike Tomlin, whose signature sayings carry extra weight this year. For Tomlin and the Steelers, « the standard is still the standard, » even in a pandemic.
« It’s the saying that caught my eye the most, especially at times like these, » said kicker Chris Boswell of Tomlin’s standard line. « Whether we can’t train all week or Ben [Roethlisberger] not last week, we still have one game to play on Sunday and we still have a standard that we have to be at in order to be. « able to work as a team and come out with a win. This is one that has to show up personally no matter what is going on and play by a certain standard. «
To meet Tomlin’s goals, the Steelers adopted another of his favorite sayings this year: « Be light-footed. «
Tomlin often used it in the run-up to training camp and described how the Steelers would prepare for the season opener without a preseason.
« We have to have a hardcore plan, but we also have to be light-footed, » he said during the off-season. And after the Tennessee Titans game was postponed, Tomlin repeated the 2020 season line.
« We’re not rethinking it, » said Tomlin of the changes in the 2020 season. « You can paralyze yourself with contingency plans in addition to contingency plans. We have a hardcore plan, but we just aim to be light-footed and ready to adjust when circumstances require. So we move in our normal rhythm. «
But even before saying it out loud in a media availability, Tomlin has led his team with this mentality throughout the season.
The process of adapting to the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic began in March when almost all travel was suspended prior to draft, and teams shifted their ratings to virtual settings and ran player interviews on Zoom and FaceTime instead of a face to have meetings to meet. Soon everything was virtual: the NFL draft, rookie meetings, and OTAs. For some, the transition was easy. Not so much for others.
« I work hard not to be against it, » said Tomlin. « Our coaches do the same thing, but some of us are dinosaurs. We’re reluctant to give in, if you will. But above all we are gaining experience with it. The more experience you gain, the more comfortable you get, the more innovative you get and hopefully this happens for all of us. I know I work hard to make this happen for me and the things I need to do for the group. «
Tomlin has always been a man without excuses, which he and his team have embodied even more this season.
When their goodbye week was postponed from week 8 to week 4 due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Titans, and they were forced to play 13 straight weeks, Tomlin put it bluntly, « We don’t care. «
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A few weeks later, the Steelers lost their defense quarterback in Devin Bush, but again, they made no excuses. They pegged the ad with Robert Spillane, an under-the-radar gamer, and held an unbeaten record.
The Steelers entered the intense COVID-19 log after their Week 8 win against the Ravens and were not eliminated. And even before it was commissioned by the league, the Steelers implemented more protocols that would theoretically make communication and preparation difficult, meet at virtually all gatherings, and only go into the building in staggered groups for exercise room treatments and weight room sessions.
After Tomlin fired a shot at the MAC in his press conference Tuesday and spoke about preparing for the Jaguars, a potential trap game, he said, « We’re not a Big Ten team this week going against a MAC Opponent plays, « said Roethlisberger, a MAC product, joked with his coach in its media availability the next day.
« I know! I haven’t had a chance to get him, » said the quarterback when Tomlin’s words were brought up. « He mentioned it again in the team meeting, and I wasn’t particularly happy about that. I’ll get him back, don’t worry. I need to find out which conference William & Mary is attending. We’ll say something about that. «
Even with a few jokes, the Steelers are still the same hardworking, tough team, led by a coach, with the belief that they can adapt to any circumstance and weather any storm. It is this consistency that has led them to a 9-0 start, even in the middle of a strange season.
« When we talk about winning, it leads to a mood, or a mood leads to winning. I think it’s a bit of both, « said Cameron Heyward. « Culture creates winning, but culture must continue to build on it. You can’t just sit back and relax about winning a game and saying you did the job. It takes a good group of people to stay humble and consistent and understand that the job isn’t done. «
Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL
World News – AU – ‘Standard is still the standard’: How Steelers coped with a chaotic season
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