The Sunday night thriller between the Chargers and Raiders had playoff implications for both teams, but the game was also being watched closely by plenty of Steelers fans. After Pittsburgh defeated Baltimore to close the regular season 9-7-1, the Steelers needed the AFC West battle to have a winner and loser. As long as it didn’t end in a tie, they would clinch a playoff berth.
So, of course, the game was tied at 32 late in overtime, drastically increasing the blood pressure of many Pittsburghers. With the Raiders driving down the field and less than a minute remaining in the period, Los Angeles coach Brandon Staley called a timeout to adjust his defense. Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs picked up 10 yards on the next play, setting up Daniel Carlson for the game-winning 47-yard field goal. The final results: Raiders in, Steelers in, Chargers out.
Pretty dramatic ending, huh? Steelers players were certainly excited about it, but Mike Tomlin missed it.
During his Tuesday news conference, the SuperBowl-winning coach was asked how he reacted to the conclusion of the Chargers-Raiders contest. It turns out Tomlin was counting sheep instead of watching the NBC broadcast.
“I dozed off,” Tomlin said. “I knew I had a work day waiting on me, or I assumed that I had a work day waiting on me. I think, at one point, (Las Vegas) was up by 15, and that number made you somewhat comfortable. I’m probably better off not having watched it. So, it’s probably not as exciting of a description as you would’ve hoped.”
Tomlin may have been trying to get as much shut-eye as possible on Sunday knowing that he would have a huge challenge ahead of him. The Steelers will face a Chiefs team — one that handed them a brutal 36-10 loss in Week 16— in the wild-card round. Kansas City won nine of its last 10 games to surge all the way up to the No. 2 seed in the AFC, and it’s looking to reach the Super Bowl for the third consecutive season.
“We have big-time challenges in terms of preparing for Kansas City,” Tomlin said. “We’ve been to Kansas City very recently. They handled us and handled us definitively. So, we understand that, but at the same time, we’re not paralyzed by that. We accept that we didn’t play well enough last time. We accept that we didn’t plan well enough last time, but that’s last time.
“We better get ready physically. We better get ready mentally, emotionally because it’s gonna take all of us. They’re a very talented team in all three phases.”
The Chiefs will be heavily favored to win and advance to the divisional round, but Tomlin and the Steelers are hoping that they can shock the world as an NFL playoff … sleeper.
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