Updated: Dec 20, 2020
(Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Mike Tomlin opened his weekly Tuesday press conference by crediting the Buffalo Bills for being more physical than the Steelers in Sunday night's 26-15 loss.
"I have to tip my cap to Buffalo. They made significant plays and won decisively because of it, to be quite honest with you," Tomlin said on Tuesday during his weekly press conference about the Bills' 26-15 win over the Steelers on Sunday night. "When I really look at the tape, you can go through some of the minutia and things of that nature, but the bottom line is they were the more physical football team. It can be highlighted in terms of their front and our inability to run the ball, but just in general, I thought in all elements of play, they were the more physical group."
What Tomlin told the media on Tuesday was probably the exact same thing he told his team when they were reviewing the game film on Monday. Talking heads like Booger McFarland has also called out the Steelers' offensive line for not being physical enough. For a franchise like the Steelers, since the 1970s they've always been known as a team to deliver blows instead of receiving them.
"I just don’t think we are being as physical as we should be and need to be all of the time," Ben Roethlisberger said in a Zoom interview with the media on Wednesday. "I think that’s something we always took pride in as the Pittsburgh Steelers, being physical and coming out. Physicality isn’t just about the line. People just think that’s where it is, but really it’s about picking up blitzes. It’s about getting the tough yards. It’s about blocking the perimeter, things like that. Sometimes physicality is mental too. You have to be mentally tough."
Roethlisberger said too much blame is being put on the offensive line for not being physical enough and that it falls on the skill players as well. Roethlisberger also mentioned that physicality is a mental thing.
"Like I said, when you talk about physicality, that’s where everyone automatically looks. Your eyes go to o-line, d-line because that’s every single play you have to be physical," Roethlisberger said. "I think it naturally falls in that area. I don’t think all the fingers should be pointed there by any means. I think when we talk about physicality, the line takes it personally because they want to be physical, but being physical doesn’t always just mean I’m going to blow him off the line of scrimmage or overpower him. Sometimes, like I say, being physically tough mentally in your mind, you have to find multiple ways to be physical. I think blitz pick-ups. I think all those things. I don’t want to get off track, but I don’t want to lose track that’s it not just about the line.
"It’s about all of us. As runners, sometimes there’s a guy in the hole, an unblocked guy. You have to put your head down and get the tough one or two yards. Sometimes receivers have to put their head down instead of stepping out of bounds and get those tough kind of yards. It’s not everybody, but collectively, we all need to be more physical. I hate that the finger gets pointed at the line because it shouldn’t be there, but that’s where it naturally kind of starts when you talk about a football team or an offense."
JuJu Smith-Schuster knows the history of the Steelers and all the legendary players that have made a living by punishing the opposition -- players such as Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, Joe Greene, Hines Ward and James Harrison etc.
"I have been on this team," Smith-Schuster said. "We are blue-collar. We are known for being a physical team just from our past and history. We haven't been doing it the past few games on both sides of the ball. On the offensive side, there were a couple of plays we got 'un-physicaled' in the running game, in the passing game, making blocks downfield."
Smith-Schuster said physicality has always been apart of his game and it's something that he likes to display so the other receivers can follow his lead.
"You talk about running the ball, ball in your hand, ball not in your hand, physical blocking, downfield by wide receivers, by running backs, blocking for the quarterback, physical runs when you catch the ball," Smith-Schuster said. "That has always been in my game play. Before the game started Ben said you have to be physical, you have to lead this group. For me, I can tell my receivers to be physical. At the end of the day I have to show them if I can go out there and be physical, you can go out there and be physical too. That is definitely something we have to do going into the game, starting off fast, starting off physical."