The Sunday night thriller between the Chargers and Raiders had playoff implications for both teams, but the game was also being closely watched by many Steelers fans. After Pittsburgh defeated Baltimore to close out the regular season 9-7-1, the Steelers needed the AFC West battle to have a winner and a loser. As long as it didn’t end in a draw, they would secure a place in the playoffs.
So, of course, the game was tied at 32 at the end of overtime, dramatically raising the blood pressure of many Pittsburgh residents. With the Raiders moving down the field and less than a minute left in the period, Los Angeles coach Brandon Staley called a timeout to adjust his defense. Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs racked up 10 yards on the next play, setting Daniel Carlson up for the game-winning 47-yard field goal. The bottom line: Raiders in, Steelers in, Chargers out.
Pretty dramatic ending, huh? Steelers players were certainly excited about it, but Mike Tomlin missed it.
During his press conference Tuesday, the Super Bowl-winning coach was asked how he reacted to the conclusion of the game between the Chargers and Raiders. Turns out Tomlin was counting sheep instead of watching the NBC broadcast.
“I fell asleep,” Tomlin said. “I knew I had a work day waiting for me, or I assumed I had a work day waiting for me. I think at one point, (Las Vegas) went up 15, and that number made you feel somewhat comfortable. I was probably better off not having seen it. So it’s probably not as exciting a description as you might have hoped. “
Tomlin may have been trying to get as much sleep as possible on Sunday knowing he had a big challenge ahead of him. The Steelers will face a Chiefs team, one that gave them a brutal 36-10 loss in Week 16, in the wild card round. Kansas City has won nine of its last 10 games to climb to the No. 2 seed in the AFC, and is looking to reach the Super Bowl for the third straight season.
“We have great challenges in terms of preparing for Kansas City,” Tomlin said. “We’ve been in Kansas City very recently. They managed us and they definitely managed us. So, we understand that, but at the same time, we are not paralyzed by it. We accept that we did not play well enough in the past We accept that we did not plan well enough in the last time, but that’s the last time.
“We better prepare ourselves physically. We better prepare ourselves mentally and emotionally because it is going to take us all. They are a very talented team in all three phases.”
The Chiefs will be big favorites to win and advance to the divisional round, but Tomlin and the Steelers hope to surprise the world like an NFL playoff … sleeper.