Coach Tomlin, Steelers living in the moment as time runs out on playoffs
Mike Tomlin isn't ready to say the Steelers are relevant again following just one victory.
Ben Roethlisberger isn't ready to say the Steelers are rebuilding — a word he despises — despite their 5-11 record over their past 16 games, the equivalent of a full NFL season.
The NFL's live-for-the-moment, don't-look-past-this-week attitude is being espoused by both the Steelers coach and his quarterback as they look ahead to the Sunday home game against the Detroit Lions (6-3).
Roethlisberger emphasizes he's not looking ahead to next year or the season after that, repeating he has no plans to request a trade away from Pittsburgh — regardless of the Steelers' record, regardless of the season.
“I look at it as every year, every game that I play, we're going to be the best we can be. I hate it when people say you're rebuilding because to me that's a slap in the face to the people that are out there playing,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday on his radio show. “You sit there and say, ‘They're young, they're rebuilding, but what about the guys that are out there playing?'
“You think they're sitting there telling themselves, ‘Oh, it's OK (to lose), it's a rebuilding year.' No, they're out there trying to bust their butt, and that includes me.”
Roethlisberger, 90-45 as a regular-season starter, also said he wouldn't “jump ship and quit” even if the Steelers (3-6) go through more lean seasons. They are 11-14 the past two seasons.
“No one wants to win more than I do. It pains me to lose football games, it pains me to lose at anything,” Roethlisberger said. “That's just who I am. So that's why I'm going to do everything I can to turn it around and win football games. ... Just because the season started bad doesn't mean I'm going to quit on the season.”
But because the Steelers season started badly, they probably must win six or their final seven to have any chance of making the AFC playoffs.
Tomlin isn't ready to look that far ahead, even though AFC North leader Cincinnati (6-4) has lost two straight.
“Our first charge is to handle our business, and we haven't done that consistently to look outside of our own house,” he said. “We need to do that consistently first. It doesn't matter what's going on within our division or around the National Football League unless we can start stacking significant wins.”
Beating the Lions — who haven't won in Pittsburgh since 1955 (0-8-1) — would be a significant win. Tomlin called Lions star Calvin Johnson “the best wide receiver in the game” and a Randy Moss-like threat who can be an impact player even when tightly defended.
“He's a special player,” Tomlin said of Johnson, who averages 113 yards and has nine touchdown catches.
When Moss faced the Steelers at his peak in 2007, he had seven catches for 135 yards and two touchdowns against them.
“You can talk about ways to minimize his impact on the game, people, coverages, all that has been done through nine games this year,” Tomlin said of Johnson. “And he is still at about 100 yards per game and a touchdown per game. Obviously, we are going to take a swing at it.”
His quarterback wouldn't have it any other way.
“I feel like we're growing as an offense,” Roethlisberger said. “I know our record isn't what we want it to be, but I feel like I'm getting better, we're getting better.”