Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said it best when he declared this upcoming game against the Miami Dolphins as “our playoff game”. That is what the season has become for the Steelers. Win and you stay alive; lose and your season very well might be over.
With such an important game on the horizon, you can’t help but wonder if the Steelers have found themselves distracted by the nonsense that has been the Mike Tomlin sideline fiasco.
Yesterday the NFL fined the Steelers’ head coach $100,000 for his interruption of a kick return last Thursday night against the Baltimore Ravens. That is old news now, but what isn’t old is how this will affect the team.
Will Mike Tomlin be distracted in his approach to a must win game?
Has this entire situation distracted the coaching staff and the players?
Almost to a man, players pushed aside the situation when asked about it yesterday. Players wanted to talk about the Dolphins game and not about any potential fine or punishment the NFL and Roger Goodell might determine as appropriate for their coach or organization. That sounds great, but how has it affected these men who are forced to live with a ruling that on most accounts isn’t fair or appropriate?
However the team is handling the distraction the NFL created with its delayed ruling, the distraction itself couldn’t come at a worse time. The Steelers are facing dire circumstances within the AFC playoff picture, and it is now to the point where they don’t control their own destiny.
The Steelers can’t afford to lose again for the remaining four games, and that is something that is of the utmost importance right now. But that isn’t what is garnering the attention on the Steelers’ South Side facility.
Will this entire situation be a major distraction for a team that essentially faces an elimination game on Sunday? Only time will tell, but if it is a distraction the finger should be pointed at the NFL — not for making the ruling, but for taking so long to do so. The Steelers haven’t played since Thanksgiving day and the punishment wasn’t sent until nearly a week later. That in itself is inexcusable to me.
This strange situation has lingered over the Steelers like a cloud for nearly a week when the team should be focusing on nothing but beating the Dolphins. The Steelers have been a resilient bunch this season, and that resiliency will be tested like none other this Sunday coming off a week filled of controversy and distraction.
Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz