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How Mike Tomlin’s consistency helped guide the Steelers into the postseason – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog



PITTSBURGH — Each morning at 8:30, coach Mike Tomlin sets the tone for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With a booming voice, he greets his team.

“The way he says good morning, it just wakes you up,” second-year linebacker Alex Highsmith said earlier this season. “It just brings a lot of attention.”

This week, his voice is even louder with the big team meetings moved to the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex’s indoor practice field. Folding chairs are scattered around the cavernous structure, all turned to face the hanging video board and the coach, usually wearing black-and-gray sweats, standing under it.

Then, Tomlin goes through a rundown of the day’s objectives and how the men assembled are going to accomplish them.

“Mike Tomlin sets the stage for us every morning,” inside linebacker Robert Spillane said. “… He does a great job of getting all 53 people on the same page and doing it in a quick and concise manner, where you have an understanding of what the game plan is going to look like for the day, but also our mentality for the practice and any important information going forward.”

It’s the kind of routine that has been established through years of consistency — one of Tomlin’s greatest calling cards through 15 non-losing seasons as the Steelers head coach. It’s also been one of his most important traits this season as his steady leadership helped his team navigate a roller-coaster 1-3 start and a three-game midseason winless streak to reach an improbable playoff matchup against the No. 2 seed Kansas City Chiefs (12-5) in the wild-card round Sunday (8:15 p.m. ET, NBC).

“The one thing I salute Coach Tomlin, win, lose, up or down, it’s always the same attitude,” wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud said. “That’s hard to find. You never change your ways. You’ve just got to find a way to win.

“For him, every meeting is different, but they all go back to the culture he’s trying to build, having that fight, having that finish. That’s something that we stand on every game: Vikings game down at halftime, Chargers game down early. Just having that finish and that fight, I think will help us in the long run.”

Tomlin’s fiery halftime speeches have been necessary this season, fueling some of those notable fourth-quarter comebacks. But it’s what he does on a daily basis that endears him to his players even more.

Defensive captain Cam Heyward said Tomlin’s presence has made the Steelers’ (9-7-1) season less tumultuous, less of a roller coaster and more like a different metaphor.

“We’re basically canoeing out there,” Heyward said Thursday. “We’re out there, just staying level. He doesn’t get out of character. He doesn’t have to do anything different. He preaches the same goals. Whether it’s stopping the run, understanding situational football. Being in our face about it. Being honest with us.

“When you understand your goals, it allows you to expect that with yourself and not allow anything less.”

Heyward said Tomlin is the force that keeps the canoe from tipping over — even if Tomlin downplays the qualities that make him an exceptional leader.

“I don’t want to make a big deal out of that,” said Tomlin, who became the second-winningest Steelers coach after passing Bill Cowher with 150 wins in Week 9. “That is my job.

“Football is an emotional game played by high-energy men who are really emotional. They need to hear a steady voice. They need to hear consistency in messaging in belief, and so it’s my job to exemplify that.”

The 49-year-old, who is the NFL’s only current Black head coach, is also not afraid to let it loose. Publicly, Tomlin is often reserved, only speaking in his no-nonsense Tomlinisms. But twice this season he’s blown kisses to the sideline camera after a win, and following the Week 18 win against the Baltimore Ravens, Tomlin even danced with some of his players in an Instagram Live video of the locker room celebration.

“We always see that side of Coach T,” cornerback Joe Haden said. “He shows that with us all the time on the inside, so it’s for everyone else to finally get that side of him. It’s a little different side. We see that Coach T all the time, being very personable, being very relatable to all of the players, having a blast. It’s funny when everyone else gets to see it.”

After beating the Ravens in the regular-season finale to help secure a playoff berth, Tomlin praised quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s poise and said he keeps the team calm in tense situations.

“He’s the same when everybody else gets funny,” Tomlin said. “Everybody else gets a little tight, he’s the same guy.”

But the same thing is true about the head coach.

“Really nothing outside his normal self,” cornerback Cam Sutton said of what Tomlin’s done for the team this year. “He’s always been that inspirational leader, just that overall figure to us. It goes beyond football. That relationship carries throughout many adversities, whether it’s football related, life related. He’s always dependable. Always reliable. Always a guy willing to sacrifice and willing to be the front and the head of all of that.

“We’re just appreciative of being behind a guy like that, who comes to work each and every day as the front-runner, leave it all on the line for us. Who doesn’t want to follow that?”

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Ex-Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown says ‘there’s nothing wrong with my mental health’ in wake of sideline outburst



TAMPA, Fla. — Former Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown said his recent sideline outburst against the New York Jets that resulted in his dismissal from the Buccaneers, and previous incidents he’s been involved in have been miscategorized as “mental health issues.”

In a preview of an episode of “I Am Athlete,” that will be posted in full on Jan. 24, Brown tells former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall that he’s not suffering from mental health issues.

“Everyone in the world got a different form of reactions of what happened to me. And it’s all based upon where you from, how you feel and no one really gonna know that regardless of who you is,” Brown said. “The thing with football players is mental health and CTE is this: These guys are willing to do whatever it take to make some obligated gain. But in the midst of those gains, along that journey, they’re mistreated, there’s a lot of stuff that went on that may not have been handled right.

“And then you started your career on a high. It’s like a rollercoaster. You go up, and then as soon as it bout to go down, everyone leave. … If we all players and we all saying we care about mental health, why every time something happens bad or someone reacts, ‘Aw, he’s crazy, there’s something wrong with his mental health,'” Brown asked. “There’s nothing wrong with my mental health. Someone told me, ‘Get the f— out of here.’ I’m not passive-aggressive.”

Brown and his attorney Sean Burstyn have claimed that the Bucs attempted to mislabel his outburst as a mental health issue and wanted Brown to receive counseling, when Brown claims his ankle was too injured to play on, and that Arians told him to leave the field.

Since his release by the Buccaneers earlier this month, Brown has shifted his focus to his music career and rehabbing his ankle, which will require surgery. He indicated he does want to continue playing football next year. He released a music single, “Pit Not the Palace.” He appeared courtside for a Brooklyn Nets-Memphis Grizzlies game two weeks ago. He’s taken part in photo shoots and has linked up with pals Kanye West, Floyd Mayweather and Madonna.

In the past though, he has acknowledged seeking mental health treatment. His father Eddie Brown told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler that Brown was undergoing therapy after his release by the New England Patriots in 2019, which coincided with two sexual assault allegations.

Brown has also indicated that he supports mental health treatment. In an interview with ESPN in February 2020, Brown was asked whether he needed mental health help, to which he responded, “We all need mental help.”

At that time, the circumstances of Brown’s life were different. He’d been arrested and charged with felony burglary and battery charges. The mother of three of his children, Chelsie Kyriss, posted on Instagram at the time that her and their children were focused on building a new life “free from any impulsive, reckless and unhealthy” behaviors.” She added, “My hope is that Anotonio [sic] will get help and seek the mental health treatment that he so desperately needs so that he can be the father all of his children need and deserve.”

He and Kyriss reached reconciliation and she and their children were on-hand when Brown and the Bucs defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. Brown had also underwent anger management counseling and his probation was terminated one year early for good behavior. On numerous occasions before his departure from the Bucs, both general manager Jason Licht and head coach Bruce Arians described him as a “model citizen.”

Arians said of his departure, “Yeah, it was very hard. I wish him well. I hope, if he needs help, [that he] gets some. It’s very hard because I do care about him.”

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Green Bay Packers expected to have healthy Randall Cobb; statuses of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, David Bakhtiari less promising



GREEN BAY, Wis. — The last two times the Green Bay Packers were in the playoffs, Randall Cobb had to watch from his couch.

The Packers had moved on from the receiver following the 2018 season, and he spent the next two years with non-playoff teams Dallas in 2019 and Houston in 2020.

When he tore multiple muscles in his abdomen as he caught a touchdown pass 12 weeks into his return to Green Bay this season, he was determined not to be a spectator again. Sure enough, Cobb is expected to return for Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field.

However, even with Cobb’s return, the Packers’ receiving corps may not be at full strength.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling was listed as doubtful because of the back injury he suffered in the regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions. He practiced on Tuesday but then was a nonparticipant the rest of the week.

Cobb said he could have played two weeks ago at Detroit, about five weeks after he underwent surgery.

“The past four years I’ve been watching the playoffs from the couch,” Cobb said, counting the 2017 and ’18 seasons that the Packers missed the postseason. “I haven’t seen the playoffs since 2016, so I’m really excited for the opportunity to be out there and help contribute.”

Cobb, who returned to Green Bay last summer via trade from the Texans at the request of Rodgers, said the low point in his career was the 2019 NFC Championship Game, when the Packers played the 49ers. He said he watched the game alone and didn’t even want his wife, Aiyda, with him during it.

“When I got drafted here it was right after the Super Bowl,” Cobb said of the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV win. “We went 15-1, I thought we were going that year. Thought we were going in ’14. Obviously ’16, the loss in Atlanta and I haven’t been there since then and I’ve been watching from the couch.

“It was hard. I was definitely in a dark place when they played the 49ers in San Francisco because in my mind, I’m like, ‘Man, they won the year before I got there and they won the year after I left,’ or, ‘They’re getting ready to go the year after I left, so I must’ve been the problem. It must’ve been me.’ So I was definitely in a dark place that year, but I’m just happy to be a part of it, happy to have the opportunity to contribute and to do my part.”

The Packers activated Cobb off injured reserve on Friday. They had a spot open after they released defensive tackle Kingsley Kekea day earlier. The Packers would also need spots for outside linebackers Za’Darius Smith (back) and Whitney Mercilus (biceps), who are attempting to come back from IR. Coach Matt LaFleur left that possibility as questionable.

Cornerback Jaire Alexander, who is on the roster but hasn’t played since his Week 4 shoulder injury, was listed as questionable.

There are other question marks as well.

When left tackle David Bakhtiari played the first 27 snaps of the Week 18 game against the Lions, it was believed to be a precursor to him playing full time when the playoffs started. That may not be a sure thing. Bakhtiari practiced only one day this week — the middle of three practices — and was listed as questionable.

LaFleur was vague about why or what may have happened in the days since Bakhtiari made his return in the regular-season finale after more than a year away because of ACL surgery.

“He’s working his tail off,” LaFleur said. ‘And we’ll see where he’s at.”

The Packers will have at least one of their two preferred starting tackles. LaFleur said right tackle Billy Turner, who missed the last month of the regular season with a knee injury, has been cleared to play.

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Cincinnati Bengals DE Trey Hendrickson clears concussion protocol, OK to play Saturday



Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson has cleared the concussion protocol and will play in Saturday’s divisional-round playoff game against the Tennessee Titans, coach Zac Taylor announced Thursday.

Hendrickson, who led the Bengals with 14 sacks this season, suffered the concussion in the Bengals’ 26-19 wild-card game victory over the Las Vegas Raiders last Saturday.

Hendrickson had a strip sack of Raiders quarterback Derek Carr before leaving that game.

His 14 sacks in the regular season were a career high. He had 13.5 sacks in 2020 for the New Orleans Saints, helping him to earn a four-year, $60 million contract in free agency with the Bengals last March.

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