Many believe that the Steelers are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, the current status of Sunday night’s game against the Packers notwithstanding. One person who believes it, and who isn’t bashful about saying it, is Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
“Oh, we can win it all,” Tomlin told Tony Dungy of NBC’s Football Night in America. “We should win it all. I think that’s my mentality. I think that’s their mentality. But I’m less concerned about that and more concerned about what are the things that we’re going to do along the way to make that happen.”
Tomlin also knows that, along the way to make that happen, the Steelers will encounter the Patriots at least once, and maybe twice. He’s not afraid to talk about that.
“I’m going to embrace the elephant in the room,” Tomlin said. “There’s going to be fireworks. But it’s probably going to be part one. You know? . . .
“You’ll burn more fuel trying to pretend like that doesn’t exist than just to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Man, that’s going to be a big game. But probably if we’re both doing what we’re supposed to do, the second one is really going to be big and what happens in the first is going to set up the second one. It’s going to determine the location of the second one. You know?”
Here’s what I know — Patriots coach Bill Belichick would never let himself or his team think that far down the road. That’s how teams lose sight of what they have to do before the big game they’re focused on. Which may be one of the reasons why the Steelers have found themselves in an unlikely tussle with a 14-point underdog in prime time.