Reimer: Bill Belichick's value on full display after Steelers implode

Alex Reimer
January 15, 2018 - 10:22 am

David Butler II/USA Today Sports

While the Steelers fell to the Jaguars in the Divisional Round Sunday, their playoff fate was likely sealed two months ago. In a late-November interview with NBC’s Tony Dungy, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin declared his team was going to face the Patriots in the AFC championship.

“I’m going to embrace the elephant in the room," Tomlin said. “(The game is) going to be fireworks. And it's probably going to be Part 1. That's going to be a big game. But probably, if we're both doing what we're supposed to, the second one is really going to be a big game. Then what happens in the first is going to set up the second one, which is going to determine the location of the second one.”

At the time, the Steelers were still three weeks away from facing the Patriots in the regular season. They beat their next three opponents –– the Brett Hundley-led Packers and golf course-bound Bengals and Ravens –– by an average margin of 2.3 points. The close calls were a harbinger of things to come.

It’s apparent the Jaguars were using the Steelers’ braggadocio as a rallying cry. After the game Sunday, Jacksonville players taunted safety Mike Mitchell, who guaranteed last week the Patriots and Steelers would meet up again in the AFC championship.

On top of that, the Steelers look ridiculous. Le’Veon Bell may have gained 155 yards from scrimmage, but his foolish tweet about playing next week overshadowed his performance. 

Smarmy nihilistic types like yours truly mock the notion that outside distractions can affect the outcome of a game. And it’s difficult to come up with a rebuttal, because the forces at work are intangible. But if overconfidence were to cost a team, it would look like giving up 21 unanswered points in the first half to Blake Bortles. Or, perhaps, it would manifest itself in moronic coaching decisions, such as throwing it deep on 4th-and-1 or electing for an onside kick with more than two minutes remaining and two timeouts after cutting the deficit to seven. 

Bill Belichick’s value has never looked greater than it did on Sunday. The Steelers are so loaded with talent, they still managed to gain 552 yards of offense in an embarrassing defeat. But they just never appeared to take the Jaguars seriously, despite losing to them 30-9 in October. The Steelers were setting themselves up to be humiliated. 

Belichick teams never put themselves in that position. 

Last week, I mocked the notion that unattributable quotes in an ESPN story would motive Tom Brady in Saturday’s Divisional Round game against the Titans. But Brady did go out and throw for 337 yards and three touchdown passes after looking relatively pedestrian for the previous five games. Now, maybe that’s because Brady always dominates Dick LeBeau defenses. Or, to paraphrase Brady from his “Tom vs. Time” documentary, perhaps there’s something karmic about it. 

Ironically, the Jaguars did not appear to learn their lesson from the Steelers. Shortly after Jacksonville’s upset win, star cornerback Jalen Ramsey guaranteed he's going to the Super Bowl. 

In the words of Steelers guard David DeCastro, that’s “just stupid.” 

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