Not What Tomlin Had in Mind

The Steelers improved to 8-3 by escaping Kansas City with a 13-9 win over the Chiefs. But it was supposed to be a statement win for coach Mike Tomlin.

KANSAS CITY – The search for the words to accurately characterize Steelers 13, Chiefs 9 resulted in "horrible" and "terrible" being bandied about in the visitor's locker room at Arrowhead Stadium.

And the "terrible" reference wasn't juxtaposed with "towel."

Take Ben Roethlisberger's take on his third-quarter interception: "Just a horrible throw," Roethlisberger assessed. "Just a horrible throw."

Or, take Ryan Clark's take on why Mike Tomlin was acting the way he was in the immediate aftermath.

"'Cause we played terrible," Clark maintained.

Tomlin wanted more, according to Clark. What Tomlin wanted was something similar to what the New England Patriots had done to the Chiefs in Kansas City's previous foray into prime time a week ago tonight. The Pats won that one, 34-3.

After starting slowly, New England kicked it into high gear and blew Kansas City's doors off, something the New England was also able to do to Philadelphia yesterday. In doing so, the Patriots have announced with authority their state of readiness for the postseason.

Tomlin, according to Clark, wanted as much from his Steelers.

"He wanted us to come in here and make a statement," Clark continued. "You look at what happened last week against New England, an elite team handling a team that they should have handled. I think he wanted us to come out and perform that way; it's a big stage, prime time."

The Steelers' offense wasn't ready for prime time. The defense really wasn't, either, but fortunately for the defense an overwhelmed Tyler Palko kept giving them the ball. It still added up to 8-3 at the end of the night.

As it would have had the Steelers blown the Chiefs' doors off, as the Steelers should have and would have had they been on their details.

Instead they were, in the words of the Kansas City Star's Sam Mellinger, "consistently sloppy, occasionally stupid and eminently beatable."

Tomlin has clearly been pushing hard for something resembling what the Steelers will need to be in January. His most recent move, the benching of Chris Kemoeatu for Doug Legursky at left guard, was another in a series of messages sent to his players, all of which implied the demand for a certain standard of performance, or else.

Instead, Tomlin got penalties and turnovers and dropped passes and 12 men in the huddle and 12 men on defense and the quarterback waving the punt team off the field only to wind up wasting a timeout.

It's going to be really interesting to see how Tomlin responds to all of that, especially given the CBA limitations regarding practicing in pads.

In the meantime, fear not that the Steelers almost lost to the Chiefs. You know what they call almost losing?

That's right, winning.

"A win is a win that is a win," Max Starks insisted. "It doesn't matter how they come."

Steel City Insider Top Stories