Kovacevic: On crusading vs. Tomlin, Sullivan’s answer, Freese


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Mike Tomlin and the Falcons' Matt Ryan after the game Sunday. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

There's no way it was rehearsed in any way, but there it was, anyway, all around the Steelers' locker room at Heinz Field: One player after the other was praising one coach or another.

"Great play call by Randy," Ben Roethlisberger told me of a sharp passing sequence signaled in by Randy Fichtner. Even though I hadn't asked at all about Ben's offensive coordinator.

"Coach Buts called all the right shots," Cam Heyward told me when I brought up Joe Haden being isolated on Julio Jones, a shrewd maneuver by Keith Butler. Even though I hadn't asked at all about Cam's defensive coordinator.

I wasn't in on every conversation in the room, obviously, but Marcus Gilbert might have topped them all in this regard.

"Our coaches had us prepared," the big man spoke from his stool in the corner. "They had a game plan, they made sure we all bought in, and we went out and executed."

They did. These guys weren't all lying. Besides, we all witnessed it.

But I know better than to expect an echo on this.

Applauding anything Mike Tomlin does is anathema anymore, at least with a vocal percentage of the Nation. The half-dozen paragraphs above this one, all by themselves, will prompt at least a handful of readers to have stopped reading ... what, halfway through? After the first quote?

Here's something I believe: Absolute criticism is almost always hollow. Because then it isn't criticism as much as it is a crusade. My own longstanding feeling on the Pirates' front office, for example, is that they should be replaced. I've expressed that in no uncertain terms. But on those occasions where I feel they've done something right -- including when that something right has proven unpopular, such as the Chris Archer trade -- I've offered praise.

I mean, imagine not doing it that way. It'd be wholly unfair to all concerned and, just as important, it would invalidate the valid criticism that's there.

That said, it's close to impossible over these past 48 hours to pick up anywhere -- social media, talk shows, comment sections like ours -- a solitary soul speaking of Tomlin and his staff completely schooling Dan Quinn and his staff on the Atlanta side. Even though that's indisputably part of what took place Sunday in that 41-17 romp. The Steelers' script was smarter, their adjustments were smarter, and their overall approach was that of the aggressor.

Does that wipe away the embarrassment of the first four weeks, particularly all that went wrong against the Ravens the previous week?

Or course not.

But to say nothing of Tomlin?

To almost never cite his 13-3 record just last season?

To attribute a decade that's been as successful as that of anyone not named Bill Belichick to having inherited Roethlisberger?

And most striking, to hear some go out of their way to gleefully denigrate anything that does go right for the head coach or even the Steelers as a whole, primarily to prove that they were right to take the stance they did?

Man, I dare says that's borderline political in terms of the scope of the modern mindset. You know, where no one on the other side is ever right about anything.

Sorry, that's not for me. And I sure hope it never is.

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