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PITTSBURGH – While the rest of Pittsburgh sat on the edge of their common seat watching the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders late Sunday night, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin slept.
Tomlin admitted he did not see the battle-winning field goal in overtime by Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson, who eventually sent his team to the playoffs.
“I dozed off,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “I knew I had a working day waiting, or I assumed I had a working day waiting. I think at some point, [the Raiders] had increased by 15 and that number made you comfortable.
“I’m probably better off not having seen it.”
He’s not the only Steeler to miss the end of the Raiders’ 35-32 victory in real time. Wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud gathered with some teammates to watch the match, but because they kept rewinding it, the group was behind the live broadcast as Carlson’s field goal prevented a draw that would have kept the Steelers (9-7- 1) out of the playoffs.
“My little brother called me,” McCloud said Monday. “He was like, ‘it’s rigged, bro. It’s rigged. “Then he called back to me and said,” You’re good, you’re good. “
“I thought, ‘Did they make it?’ “So when I saw it in person, I already knew they were doing it. It was definitely a relief. It was a fun game.”
Now that the Steelers – who according to ESPN’s Football Power Index only had a 9% chance of getting into the playoffs into the final day of the regular season – are in the off-season, the challenge ahead is a difficult one. They face the Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) in the AFC wildcard round at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. Just three weeks ago, the visiting Steelers were blown out by the Chiefs 36-10.
“They handled us and definitely handled us,” Tomlin said. “And so we understand that. But at the same time, we are not paralyzed by it. We accept that we did not play well enough last time. We accept that we did not plan well enough last time. But that is the last time.”
Tomlin also acknowledged that it was not an achievement his team could take much of.
“I do not know how much you learn from it, to be completely honest with you,” he said. “They smashed us so definitively. More than anything, it’s like a restart.”
In that game, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes completed 23 of 30 attempts in 258 yards and three touchdowns, while Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left early and threw in 159 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
Since then, the Steelers have beaten two wins in a row against the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens to reach the playoffs.
“I can not say enough about the group,” Tomlin said. “Their buy-in, their fight, their selflessness. You’re not in this tournament unless you’re all that stuff and a little bit more.
“We do not think we are unique compared to the other 13 teams, but we are grateful for what it is we have had to do to be a part of this field.”
The last two victories were partly driven by the urgency of Roethlisberger’s last – his last home game and last game of the regular season. And Tomlin said it is “our intention” to continue riding that wave.
He also said that the experience of these close matches combined with the season’s roller coaster should help his club in the playoffs.
“We feel collectively good in many circumstances where most are uncomfortable,” Tomlin said. “I think we have been hardened by this process. It has not been an easy journey for us and I think we are becoming familiar with being in these scenarios.
“… I think we are able to execute individually and collectively because of that experience. Hopefully it helps us as we move forward in the playoffs. We understand that the playoffs are on a different level.”