Both teams enter Week 2 with surprising wins and seek to maintain the winning momentum
Mike Tomlin completed four years as Jon Gruden’s assistant in Tampa Bay as the 2000s dawned, sculpting a Super Bowl-winning defense and studying with his intense boss.
Almost two decades later, the lessons Tomlin learned remain – now in his 15th season as a coach at Pittsburgh.
“Gruden isn’t afraid of anything,” Tomlin said. “You look at an issue or problem, and you see it as an opportunity. I worked with him for four years. That is not pretended. That’s how it is every day with him ”.
And this is how the ex-pupil of Gruden will be on the other side of the grid on Sunday. Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0) will host Gruden and the Las Vegas Raiders (1-0) that day.
One of the premises of the Tomlin method as a strategist is not to fall prey to fear. His team reflected that philosophy last week, during the win at Buffalo on the first round of the season, reversing a 10-point deficit to beat the reigning AFC East Division champions, the Bills.
The Steelers delivered a message to the league. They have an offense loaded with rookies and Ben Roethlisberger, 39, drops passes with an operated right elbow. But Pittsburgh remains a team to fear in the AFC North.
It was a vibrant victory for Pittsburgh. But just a match of 17 this season. The same goes for Las Vegas, which came back to beat Baltimore in overtime. at Monday Night Football (all will have them by Star +), implying that the reconstruction started by Gruden when he returned as coach in 2018, after a decade away, is beginning to bear fruit.
It was throbbing that way a season ago, too, when the team won its first two games and closed 8-8.
So Gruden, quarterback Derek Carr and the rest of the Raiders don’t trust each other. Anyway, Las Vegas travels to Pittsburgh with identical intentions to send the same kind of message the Steelers sent in Buffalo.
“As a football fan, it’s an honor for me to step onto the grass at Heinz Field and face that team,” Carr said. “It’s nice as a fan, but as a competitor, you want to beat their game.”
It’s what Las Vegas has done in the recent past against the Steelers. The Raiders are 5-2 against Pittsburgh since Roethlisberger arrived in 2004. All five wins came in seasons in which the Raiders had a negative balance and Pittsburgh was at .500 or better.
Rare? Actually, weird is the norm when the Raiders and Steelers collide. This is the rivalry responsible for the “Immaculate Reception” after all. The painful memory for the Raiders continues to hurt almost half a century later.
“That ball hit the ground,” Carr said, referring to that play.
WILL JACKSON BREAK THE CHARM BEFORE MUHAMMES?
Nobody better than Sammy Watkins – a player on both teams in recent years – to describe the duel between the Ravens and Chiefs.
Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson they can downplay it as much as they want, but this game is first and foremost a tug-of-war between two MVP quarterbacks.
“I imagine they see it that way,” said Watkins, now a catcher with Baltimore. “You can go out and say it’s not, but the world sees two of the best and youngest MVPs in the league, and they are very talented. I see it that way. And Lamar needs to win.
This is the fourth successive season that Baltimore and Kansas City have collided, and Jackson has yet to have the satisfaction of beating Mahomes and the Chiefs. The Baltimore quarterback is 30-5 as a starter against the rest of the league.
The Ravens will go home in Sunday night’s game, but Kansas City won 34-20 at Baltimore last year, and the Chiefs boast 11 straight road wins in the regular season.