On pregame speeches, winning on the road, misery
Throughout the 2010 NFL season, Coach Mike Tomlin will provide his insight and observations to Steelers.com on a variety of topics pertaining to the team and the National Football League.
Q. Are you a pregame speech guy?
A. No, I'm not.
Q. What goes on in the locker room as kickoff approaches?
A. I have words, but I'm not looking to stir emotion. If you have a right-minded outfit, they are emotionally in tune with what's in front of them. What I try to do is wrap a bow around the week's preparation and give them a vision of how I think the game is going to unfold positively for us. If guys are nervous or edgy, I try to soothe them in some way with some light anecdote or things of that nature. That's more my mentality in terms of pregame speeches, as opposed to firing guys up. I leave that up to our wily, old veteran leader – No. 51.
Q. There are times when a coach uses negative motivation. During the pregame, that would be all positive motivation?
Q. Is there a key message that you want to get across to your team every week, based on the opponent and the time of the season it is, and when might that happen?
A. I'll deliver that message – the theme of the week, or our approach to the week's challenge – on Wednesday mornings at 9 o'clock, and I reinforce that at every opportunity after that leading up to game time, to continue to develop that theme at every opportunity leading up to game time. The initial blueprint, in terms of how our business needs to unfold for the week, is presented to the team on Wednesday mornings.
Q. You have talked about the importance of winning division games on the road, and how important that is for a team to be a championship contender. What qualities does a team need to exhibit to win those kinds of games?
A. Solidarity. You've got to stick together. There's going to be adversity. It's going to be hostile. You've got to weather the storm, and you acknowledge that a storm will be coming in some form or fashion. The teams that are tightly woven and have thoughtful playmakers are the ones capable of persevering.
Q. When do the storms usually come?
A. You never know. Sometimes it comes early, sometimes it comes late. Sometimes it comes often.
Q. Do you get a sense about a particular team at some point that it has a chance to accomplish special things?
A. You see it at many junctures along the way. You see signs of what you're capable of doing and what you are, and it's not necessarily late in the process. It can be things you see in terms of how they get through a miserable day at training camp. You see the things you can't measure, the things that really define teams. The togetherness, the willingness to work, the unselfishness, the consideration to things that champions are made of.
Q. Along this vein, are the things that you see at training camp different from the things you might see during a division game on the road at the beginning of December?
A. They're different but they're the same. What I mean by that is this: Is there are a core group of guys who love to be miserable? Do they embrace the misery that comes with adversity? Do they attack it? Or do they simply weather it? That misery can show in the form of a ridiculous two-a-day at training camp. It can show in the midst of a turnover in a critical situation in a December football game. The people who embrace the natural misery that football can provide from time to time and attack it, are those who have the characteristic of a champion.