Gruden Talks Tomlin, Steelers-Raiders Rivalry

Raiders coach respectful of history between organizations

Josh Rowntree
December 06, 2018 - 4:19 pm
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden reacts during warmups prior to facing the against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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New Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden knows the history of his organization with the Steelers. He just did not care for the success of both teams all that much. 

“I grew up a Cleveland Browns fan, so I didn’t like either team, really, because they kept knocking the Browns out of the playoffs,” Gruden said. “The amount of Hall of Fame, Pro Bowl caliber players on both teams, the dramatic finishes, the great coaches… the stakes were always high. This is a physical style with these two two teams. They were probably as good of games as you could ever go back and watch.”

Gruden’s Raiders have the worst record in the AFC at 2-10, but when black and gold meet black and silver, the games are typically close and intense. 

“It brings me back to my childhood,” Gruden said. “Really, when I fell in love with football, it was watching these two teams play. The Mike Wagners, the Lamerts, the Steel Curtain, Terry Bradshaw. Swann and Stallworth against Jack Tatum… you’re not ever going to duplicate the types of teams that those guys were. They were together so long, continuity was incredible back then. 

“It’ll be neat. Hopefully we’ll put on a good show for them.”

Gruden knows Steelers coach Mike Tomlin well, as Tomlin served as his defensive backs coach for four seasons, including Tampa Bay’s 2002 Super Bowl run. 

“Man, we used to call each other out,” Gruden said. “We used to go after each other on the practice field. He’s, as you know, a fun guy to be around. He’s got a great enthusiasm, he’s a tremendous leader. A great competitor, man. He wants to win every drill, he wants to win every single thing that he goes up at you against. It brought out the best in me and I think it brought out the best in him. We had some great battles.”

Tomlin and the Bucs ran the Tampa-2 defense, invented in the late 1990s, in part, by Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. But that style has not carried over through Tomlin’s career. Gruden is concerned with Pittsburgh’s defense, not to mention a future Hall of Famer at quarterback, as the Steelers head to Oakland in desperate need of a win, having lost their last two games. 

“I’ve got a lot of respect for Mike, obviously,” Gruden said. “But their scheme, defensively, is a lot different than the one we ran in Tampa. They’re blitzing from everywhere. [Steelers defensive coordinator] Keith Butler’s done a great job. Obviously, on offense, dealing with [Ben] Roethlisberger is a headache no one has really solved.”

Hear all of what John Gruden had to say about Sunday’s game against the Steelers below.