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.