- Experience matters:* *With Le'Veon Bell sidelined against the Baltimore Ravens for the playoffs, Coach Mike Tomlin started the running back with the most game experience, even if he was one that had never worn a Steelers game jersey until that night. Ben Tate, a fifth-year back who was signed days before the game, got the start over rookies Josh Harris and Dri Archer because of his experience.
"The decision to start him was easy," said Tomlin. "He's seen a heck of a lot more football than the other candidates over the course of his career. With it being a playoff atmosphere and him having been a part of that environment, we thought that experience was invaluable and if he could get up to speed it would lessen the load of the group if he would absorb some of those first initial snaps of the games and get us started and allow the other young guys to play into the game. He did a nice job of preparing and getting up to speed." 2.
Arrow pointed up:** Safety Mike Mitchell admittedly didn't have the type of season he had hoped for, playing the year with a torn groin. Tomlin said he is not 'into the excuse making' when it comes to performances, but he appreciated what Mitchell did this season and liked what he saw out of him.
"I liked his performance over the course of the season," said Tomlin. "Big picture-wise he is arrow pointed up in terms of his performance. As he gets up to speed on what we do here and how he fits in it. I think as the season wore on he got better, in particularly over the course of the last month. I was excited about the trajectory of his performance and I am moving forward." 3. Time to ascend: Tomlin said he wasn't surprised about the comeback made this season by linebacker Sean Spence, who missed his first two seasons because of a severe knee injury. But he did say Spence is among those players who is going to have to take their game to the next level because competition is always there.
"It was a good start for him getting back on the field," said Tomlin. "I imagine it's going to be a short period of time and he is going to be working to ascend and be better. That is just the nature of this thing. The competition is going to continually get stiffer. We are going to add people to the mix that makes it tough to have a similar role that you had the year before. People that remain aren't going to be the same. I imagine young people that he worked with and he competed against from time to time, guys like Ryan Shazier and Vince Williams, have a similar mindset about ascending and getting better.
"That all creates a good positive environment. One I don't mind pulling the strings on." 4.
Reacting to adversity:* *It was a tough season for cornerback Cortez Allen, who had to deal with a thumb and knee injury that had him finish the season on injured reserve and undergo a knee scope. He also had to deal with losing his starting role, and never really had a chance to rebound from that because of the injuries.
"He is going to write his story in terms of how he responds to that adversity," said Tomlin. "He is not unlike a lot of people in this business, particularly in this position. Ike Taylor and I laugh about his present circumstance because Ike has been there, the ups and downs of playing corner in the NFL, promotions, demotions, playing in rhythm, defining that rhythm, it's all part of it. How you respond to the adversity that the game of football presents you often times defines you and your career. He is going to be faced with a stiff challenge in terms of responding to the adversity he faced this year. I look forward to watching him do that and helping him in any way that I can professionally."