The league meetings provide us one of the rare moments in the early stages of the offseason to actually hear directly from many important individuals around the league, including Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin, who has given several of his first interviews in the past few days since the conclusion of the 2016 NFL season.
Yesterday he spent some time to sit down with Judy Battista for the league’s own network and talked about Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and the annual expectations of a championship as part of the territory of coaching in Pittsburgh.
There was one quote that grabbed the attention, however, and that came after Battista asked the veteran head coach about where his relationship with his star wide receiver has been left since the conclusion of the season, given that players and coaches can’t be in contact with one another during this time period.
“I’m a little less pissed, if I could say that” was the money quote that Tomlin threw out at the beginning of his response to the question, which more or less sums up the entire situation, referring of course to the Facebook Live video that Brown took in the locker room following the Steelers’ victory in the Divisional Round during the 2016 playoffs. He elaborated, of course:
“Time heals all wounds. To Antonio’s credit, he’s got a lot now [unintelligible] in his bank account, and rightfully so. He’s delivered and delivered in a lot of ways over the years. He’s a big-time, professional, hard worker, admired by all of his peers for the right reasons, and that was a mistake.
“I described it as such, he described it as such. We all described it as such. Now I just think we’re trying to move on. Obviously, there’s elements of the business that won’t allow us to let that happen fluidly. So be it. We’ll politely deal with it, and try to on a daily basis to move on”.
Tomlin made reference toward the end to the fact that the CBA restricts access from coaches to players until Phase One of the offseason program begins, typically in mid-April, so the reality is that Tomlin and Brown have not had much of a relationship since everything went down.
Of course, the All-Pro wide receiver managed to become $68 million richer in the intervening time, an obvious indication that there is no long-term organizational animosity over the incident. But still, Tomlin chose his words carefully in his opening barrage, telling Brown as much as anybody else that he is “a little less pissed” about what happened.
The veteran head coach’s words during the press conference in which he originally addressed the issue were pointed as well, and it is clear that the team has taken the incident seriously and expect to see growth from Brown. But as Tomlin added, time heals all wounds, and one would expect to see Brown looking to make up for his mistake over time.