Steelers Draft: Mike Tomlin goes back to the basic fundamentals of Steelers football
When interviewed after Superbowl X, Jack Lambert was asked about his incident with Cliff Harris. Lambert responded we do not let anyone intimidate us; we are the intimidators.
Ever since that interview, it became the brand of the Pittsburgh Steelers to go out, intimidate the opponent, and play smashmouth football, especially in the trenches. On the offensive line, the Steelers had some of the best Mike Webster, Jon Kolb, Gerry Mullins, Sam Davis, and Larry Brown.
You had Mean Joe, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight Wight, Ernie Holmes, Steve Furness, and John Banaszak on the defensive line. These guys terrorized offensive backfields. One of the reasons they won consistently was the ability of their linemen on both sides of the ball to effectively win on every snap.
On offense, they opened the holes to spring Franco; on defense, they clogged the lanes shutting down the opponent's running game or shut down the passing game by pressuring the quarterback.
That style of play became their trademark to one degree or another. They sort of lacked in headed into the mid-'80s, and when the Steelers hired Bill Cowher, he reestablished that brand of football. Now that we are in 2023, it appears that Mike Tomlin has recognized he needed to get back the Steelers basics of winning the trench warfare.
He did it like Steelers coaches before him; get big tough guys with an attitude. In the 2023 draft, he found guys that will not be intimidated and who will, in many situations, go out and oppose their will and, if necessary, knock guys around.
Are the Steelers now the bullies of the AFC North
Football is still a physical game despite the NFL's changes to player safety. Offensive blockers can still go out, hit hard, and knock a rusher on his backside, and the same applies to defensive linemen. The players they drafted to play in the trenches were Broderick Jones, Darnell Washington, Keeanu Benton, and Spencer Anderson.
All of these guys are big, tough, and rough, and they all have the ability to impose their will to drive defenders or offensive linemen off the ball in much the same way the Steelers did it in the ‘70s and in the ‘90s under Bill Cowher.
Some comments on youtube or elsewhere online now view the Steelers as trying to be bullies. If you want to win a championship in the NFL, you need to be one to some degree. Nevertheless, what would you have considered the Steelers of the ‘70s? They hit hard, used head slaps, kicked, punched leveled a defenseless receiver; as long as it was legal, they did it.
One criticism of Mike Tomlin after Ben Roethlisberger is he has never had to rebuild a team, as he inherited his team from Bill Cowher. So yes, it might be fair to say that he failed to address certain team needs, which led to them having to rebuild, or you can blame that on Kevin Colbert.
Nevertheless, whatever shortcomings Mike Tomlin may have had, he knew what he needed in the 2023 draft and went out and got it. The signal sent is that the Steelers are back to old school, hardnosed aggressive smash mouth football.
We are going to come at you with the run and dare you to stop it. When you have enough of the run, we will go over the top in the passing game, and if you try to sack the quarterback, we have some nasty blockers that will give you a jolt to your senses.
History will eventually tell us how well this approach worked when the 2024 draft rolls around, but as a fan, you have to have a good feeling about the Steelers and some excitement they went back to basic fundamental Steelers football in the draft.