Coach Mike Tomlin was pleased with the initial day of practice as the team prepares for the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots on Sunday, but like he said, it’s all about game day.
“I thought it was very productive, but we don’t measure days or weeks by the days themselves,” said Tomlin. “We measure by performance. So stay tuned.”
And like many of his players have been stating, the approach to practice has been business as usual.
“We go through our normal processes,” said Tomlin. “But the reality of the moments are the reality of the moments. I imagine that the guys are inspired, and have natural human responses to circumstances. But it doesn’t change our approach or our processes by which we prepare.”
One thing Tomlin does see now, and it’s not new this week, is a certain level of intensity that is associated with playing this time of year.
“I felt that, largely, for a number of weeks now,” said Tomlin. “There’s a certain urgency associated with single-elimination football. You feel that in preparation.”
There are plenty of challenges to prepare for. Case in point is Dion Lewis, who didn’t play when the Patriots defeated the Steelers earlier this year. Lewis scored three touchdowns against the Houston Texans last week in the Divisional Playoff Round, doing it all in different fashion with a touchdown rushing, receiving and on a kickoff return.
“He’s a dynamic player in the run game and in the passing game,” said Tomlin. “He’s multitalented. Obviously, I’ve had some exposure to him over the years from when he played next door at Pitt. I view it as that he’s a cog in that machine, a similar cog they’ve had in the past. He’s Kevin Faulk-like in terms of his ability to impact the game in a lot of ways, and is a nice complement to LeGarrette Blount.”
More from Coach Tomlin:
On what made him see that Le’Veon Bell’s running style worked from the beginning:
“I just like the individuality that is the way people play the game. He has a style that’s somewhat unique, but it is authentic and real. I saw it on Michigan State tape. And so, I wanted to build around that. So we hadn’t worked hard at altering that, we worked hard at making it a well-rounded approach to the game from a running back perspective. And the credit goes to him.”
On his level of respect for the Patriots and what they’ve done:
“They need no endorsement from me. They have the hardware that speaks for that. And [I] have a lot of respect for that. That’s why we all do this.”
On his confidence in his three rookie defensive players in the AFC Championship Game:
“I’m very confident. And I get the confidence based on what I’ve seen. I’ve been in two playoff stadiums with them already, and they’ve handled themselves rather well. That’s the only experience I have to pull from. So there’s a level of comfort there. But make no mistake about it, those guys are growing with each outing and that’s just a very natural thing.”