In discussing his team’s Week 11 game with the under-performing Jacksonville Jaguars, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin chose to use a college football comparison.
“We’re not a Big 10 team playing a MAC team,” Tomlin said last week. “Every time we step into a stadium, we are playing professionals, players and coaches.”
The message was a clear one to not overlook the moribund Jaguars. That mission was accomplished, as the Steelers coasted to a 27-3 victory in Jacksonville on Sunday.
But he may want to pick a different doormat for his analogy the next time. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, a MAC alum from Miami University, said he was going to make a response as soon he figured out which conference William & Mary — Tomlin’s alma mater — plays in.
Roethlisberger is far from the only MAC alum on the Steelers. Star wide receiver Diontae Johnson went to Toledo, as did backup linebackers Ola Adeniyi and Jayrone Elliott. Right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor and inside linebacker Robert Spillane are West Michigan grads. Injured linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III went to Akron and practice squad wide receiver Anthony Johnson is a Buffalo alum, giving the Steelers eight former MAC members.
And those guys came up big in the win. Roethlisberger threw for two touchdowns, Johnson had over 100 yards receiving, Okorafor was part of a line that helped James Conner to 6.8 yards per carry and kept Roethlisberger from being sacked and Spillane had four tackles.
After Sunday’s win, some of the Steelers’ MAC graduates got the last laugh, with Roethlisberger, Adeniyi, Johnson, Okorafor and Spillane getting Tomlin to pose with a photo.
“MAC guys” captioned Robert Spillane on Instagram, with laughing emojis.
Maybe next time, Tomlin should pick on the Sun Belt.
Alex Highsmith Needs MRI after Ankle Injury Suffered vs. Browns
PITTSBURGH — Steelers rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith suffered an ankle injury that will require an MRI in Sunday’s playoff loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Highsmith left the game in the first half and was seen limping on the Pittsburgh sideline. He made an attempt to return to the game, but was unable to continue playing and did not see the field at all in the second half.
In-game, the Steelers announced that Highsmith was doubtful to return with an ankle injury. After the fact, head coach Mike Tomlin said that Highsmith suffered a high ankle sprain. Highsmith’s father posted on Twitter early on Monday morning that Highsmith will require an MRI on his injured ankle.
Not the way we wanted the season to end but I am thankful to have been a part of this amazing ride! The Highsmith Family is proud to wear the Black & Gold and we look forward to more success in the future! Please pray for Alex as he gets an MRI tomorrow on his ankle! #HereWeGo pic.twitter.com/JJA4PpZpvx
— Sam Highsmith (@SHighsmithClan) January 11, 2021
Given that Highsmith was able to walk and even run in short bursts after the injury, it does not seem likely that it will impact his offseason training plans.
The team’s third-round draft pick out of Charlotte, Highsmith was thrust into a starting role after starting outside linebacker Bud Dupree suffered an ACL injury that required surgery.
On the season, Highsmith played in 16 regular season game and made five starts. He finished with 48 tackles, five for a loss, six quarterback hits, one interception and one pass defended.
With Dupree set to become an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return, Highsmith should be expected to retain his starting role in 2021.
Mike Tomlin Doesn’t Regret Punt, Will Talk to Ben Roethlisberger About Future
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin answers questions from the media following his team’s shocking defeat at the hands of the Browns in the playoffs. Tomlin explained why he decided to punt on a 4th and 1 in the 4th quarter while trailing by multiple scores. He also touched on the timeline for when he will talk to quarterback Ben Roethlisberger about his future with the team.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Says He Doesn’t Regret ‘Browns Is the Browns’ Comment
PITTSBURGH — It was repeated so often in the five days between when JuJu Smith-Schuster said the phrase on Wednesday to Sunday night’s game at Heinz Field, that it nearly became the No. 1 talking point coming into the game.
“The Browns is the Browns.” Before the game, after the game and probably during the game, many of the Browns made it clear that they had taken exception to Smith-Schuster’s characterization of the team.
The Browns IS THE BROWNS!! 🌚
— Jedrick Wills Jr.®️++💕 (@JWills73) January 11, 2021
Smith-Schuster said after the game that he had no regrets about what he said.
“You know, I don’t regret what I said,” Smith-Schuster said. “I said, ‘The Browns is the Browns.’ They came out and they played a hell of a game. You know, there’s been games where we feel we lose them and today wasn’t our night and hopefully the same Browns will show up next week against the same opponent and go out and do the same thing they did tonight and have a hell of a game.”