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Cam Heyward Explains How Mike Tomlin’s Message Turned 2023 Season Around

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The 2023 season for the Pittsburgh Steelers was a bit of a rollercoaster, with some pretty dramatic ups and downs. At 7-4 entering the month of December, the Steelers went on to drop three-straight games and lost starting QB Kenny Pickett to an injury during that stretch. They went from having great playoff odds to being the ultimate longshot to qualify for the tournament. They ultimately turned it around with three-straight wins to make the playoffs. According to Cameron Heyward, head coach Mike Tomlin never panicked or changed his message to the team.

“I think we’d just lost, it was either after the AZ [Cardinals] game or the New England game. He came in and he laid out what needed to be done,” Heyward said in a clip of his segment from Wednesday’s episode of the Rich Eisen Show posted on X. “He talked about his message, and he was just like, ‘I’m not gonna switch up. I’m not gonna say we need to do anything different.’”

“We just need to execute better,” Heyward said, recapping what Tomlin told the team. “I’m gonna preach you the same stuff I told you in September. I’m not gonna change it up ’cause we’re in November…He ended with saying, ‘We’re gonna win these games and get into the playoffs.’”

While his message to the team may not have changed, he did make a pretty substantial change in the way the Steelers were doing things in the weeks leading up to this speech that Heyward is referring to. They would have just moved on from offensive coordinator Matt Canada and promoted Eddie Faulkner and Mike Sullivan to their interim roles.

But Tomlin’s message was more about what the players needed to be doing. When things start to go south, as they did last December, players can’t get in the mindset of needing to play hero ball. In a team sport where you are relying on the 10 other guys on the field to all be sticking to their assignment, trying to do too much can do more harm than good.

“I think sometimes you can get to a war cry of, ‘I gotta do me, I gotta do my best,’” Heyward said. “Mike T does a great job of just centering it back to the group and saying, ‘No, just do what we prescribe you to do.”

That message was especially important at that point last season. Beyond losing games, the Steelers had lost a significant number of players to injury. Down the stretch the inside linebacker and safety groups were both decimated by injury, and the team was relying on players brought in from the practice squad.

Tomlin said they were going to win those final three games and get in, and against all odds they made him right.

While the 17-season non-losing record streak may irk fans because of the lack of playoff success, Tomlin’s message clearly gets through to his players. Even with their backs against the wall and all odds against them, they play hard for him and buy into the message he is conveying. Keep in mind that the three-game losing streak brought some of the most negative press that the Steelers have seen in years. They still managed to turn things around and finish the season with a chance in the playoffs.





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