The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl Hopes were dashed in stunning fashion last year when Tim Tebow hit Demaryius Thomas with a long pass on the first play of overtime in the playoffs for a touchdown. It was a painful pill to swallow for the team and head coach Mike Tomlin, but Tomlin says the team has put it behind them and will open the season, once again, with championship aspirations.
The Steelers will do it without the likes of long-time receiver Hines Ward and linebacker James Farrior, and with star defensive player James Harrison banged up and receiver Mike Wallace coming off a holdout situation. Ironically, the Steelers’ hopeful title run kicks off where last year’s ended, in Denver for Week 1.
Mike Tomlin joined 102.3 The Fan in Denver With C.J. and Kreckman to discuss James Harrison’s health, Mike Wallace’s effectiveness, Ben Roethlisberger when it comes to the discussion of the league’s top quarterbacks, preparing to play Peyton Manning, the tone heading into the season, if this is a revenge game and what it’s like without Hines Ward around.
Is James Harrison healthy going into Week 1?:
“He’s working and we’ll see how his body responds to the work that the week provides. More than anything, how is he the next morning? We just got off the practice field here on a Wednesday. He performed relatively well. We’ll see what he looks like in the morning and kind of proceed from there.”
What do you expect out of Mike Wallace?:
“I think he’s showing us what we can expect. He’s doing a nice job of executing assignments from the above-the-neck standpoint. He’s shown an overall good level of conditioning. That’s one thing about Mike, he’s in top condition over the course of a 12-month calendar. He always has been. … I temper that because we’ve yet to get into situational football.”
How important is Ben Roethlisberger and do you think he sometimes gets overlooked in the conversation about the game’s top quarterbacks?:
“Obviously he’s our franchise quarterback and that’s a term that’s kind of become cliche in the NFL. I don’t believe there’s as many franchise quarterbacks as people like to talk about. I believe that we have one and obviously those guys are measured by Lombardis. That’s what he has the desire to do and that’s what we’re focused on this year.”
How do you prepare for Peyton Manning after he sat out last year and is now with the Broncos?:
“There are unknowns in every opener, so we’re really following our normal protocol in terms of looking at what they’ve done in the preseason consistently and what we can identify as their core stuff and kind of forecast a little bit Of course, when you’re talking about a guy like Peyton, looking at what he’s done in the past and what’s in his comfort zone. But, ultimately, how we play is going to be determined by the level of execution we hold ourselves to. … One thing, when you play Peyton, he exploits mistakes … so we need to be focused on what it is we’re doing and what degree of detail we put in it.”
What was the tone coming into this season, coming off the loss to Tim Tebow and the Broncos in the playoffs last year?:
“It’s kind of been like every offseason I’ve had since I’ve been here except for one. Our goal is simple every year, and that’s to be the world champions. We weren’t last year just like we weren’t the year before. … We understand what’s on the line when we embark on this journey. We’re not trying to be good; we’re trying to be great. It doesn’t go down easy, but we swallow it like all the other ones. Really, what we’re concerned about at this point is moving forward.”
Do you view this as a revenge game?:
“No. That’s in the books. There’s nothing we can do about that. If I could somehow reverse what happened, then I’d view it in that way, but the reality is that one’s in the books.”
What’s it like not having Hines Ward around?:
“What you miss is a guy like Hines on a day-to-day basis, the amount of levity he can add to a situation. He always seems to know what to say at the appropriate time. Those guys are good teammates and good in the locker room, but teams will continually evolve and that’s the nature of football. … We’re very comfortable at the level of leadership in our locker room even though we’re minus some very special people.”