‘Everybody Makes It So Personal’: Mike Tomlin’s Key Motivational Tool Gets The Most Out Of Every Matchup

There are certain things over the years that we have heard said about Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin over and over and over again, particularly from current and former players. While he’s known for his ‘Tomlinisms’, pithy aphorisms that hold essential teaching truths and other wisdoms, there are other characteristics about his style that stick out for years to those who’ve played under him.

I don’t think there is any more evident than the repeated testimonials about his tendency to be upfront. We’ve heard variations of this from countless players over the years, about how you will know where you stand with him, that he doesn’t play games or beat around the bush. It goes deeper than that, though, as current tight end Pat Freiermuth said recently on the Pardon My Take podcast, and goes directly into game-planning.

“I think the biggest thing that I enjoy is, there’s no gray area at all”, he said. “He’ll be in team meetings and be like, ‘Hey listen, if you don’t win this matchup, we’re gonna lose the game’. As a professional athlete, you love that. Like, ‘Okay, this is what I need to do to win the game’. I think that’s why everything’s been so successful because everybody makes it so personal, that matchup, going into a game. He’s a hell of a [coach]. Love ‘em. Love ‘em”.

Therein lies the heart of his philosophy. Everything that he tells his players is driven by the intention to motivate. And he makes everybody believe that them doing their job, or rather them not doing their job, is what is going to determine the outcome.

Would you work harder and with more purpose if your boss told you that whether or not your project succeeded or failed depended upon you completing a certain task at a high level? That’s what it’s all about. Because every battle does decide the outcome, or at least it can.

And sometimes a part of the war is learning which battles you stop asking your soldiers to fight. I don’t think we’re going to see Freiermuth in certain blocking situations anymore, or as much, with Darnell Washington in the fold, as well as with Zach Gentry still around.

Allow guys to do what they do best, and convince them that what their job is on Sunday is the ticket to victory. That sounds like a winning formula to me. Freiermuth also talked during that interview about how Tomlin wants his players to be ready to run through a brick wall during OTAs.

We’ve heard this sort of comment a lot this year particularly, though part of that is simply due to the number of new veteran faces experiencing that messaging for the first time, contrary to what they’ve experienced in other NFL organizations.

Even defensive end Cameron Heyward had an interesting comment recently, saying that he almost felt as though, in comparison to how the Steelers emphasize their work during OTAs, other teams are doing themselves a disservice by shortchanging what this time of year has to offer.

Sure, there will be a day of go-kart racing or Dave & Busters here and there, but Tomlin doesn’t let workdays go to waste. Not physically or mentally. He wants you to feel like you’re preparing for the Super Bowl every time you step on grass. And that seems to be a message he’s conveyed well to his players over the years, based on the numerous testimonials to that effect.

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