Mike Tomlin used padded practice to let his team know last week wasn’t good enough

The Steelers had a spirited, padded practice on Wednesday, three days after being embarrassed by the Bengals.

Coach Mike Tomlin, in a brand-new exclusive! interview with Steelers.com, the website owned and operated by the team, explained the reasoning for the aggressive approach to preparing for Week 13 against the Ravens.

“More than anything, it’s about the messaging,” Tomlin said. “Not good enough. And it’s as simple as that. Forget if there’s any production out of the act of doing it, but there’s a message to be sent there. Our physicality, the physical component, the shedding of blocks, the making of tackles, the sustaining of blocks, the finishing of blocks weren’t up to the standards of our expectations. And so we put pads on, and we got a good day’s work in. Now whether or not that was productive is based on the result of our performance today.”

He was asked whether the padded session basically amounted to a punishment of his players.

“You know, it just depends on your perceptions of punishment,” Tomlin said. “Punishments are for building. It’s for growth. And so, if you want to look at it in those terms, certainly, but I tend to look at it as an opportunity for growth. As a point of emphasis. As a statement. As a setting of our mentality for the things that we need to do this week in that regard.”

On Tuesday, Tomlin seemed to be as confused as everyone else about the lack of punch from Pittsburgh in the most recent game against a division rival, one that already had beaten the Steelers on their own field. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, for example, diplomatically expressed surprise about the game they got from Pittsburgh.

“We thought it was going to be a dogfight but not every game turns out how you think it’s going to be,” Burrow told PFT by phone regarding a game that had the Bengals believing that they have “set the standard of what it’s supposed to be for the next five, ten years.”

Tomlin is now trying to re-set the standard of what it’s been for nearly two decades, as the team commences the stretch run of a 5-5-1 season. He’s never had a losing season since becoming the coach in 2007. The Steelers haven’t had a losing record since the year before Ben Roethlisberger arrived. With four 8-8 finishes since going 6-10 in 2003 (2006, 2012, 2013, 2019), the Week 10 tie against the Lions gives the Steelers a chance, in the first season since 1987 with an odd number of games, to finish 8-8-1.