Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin has been regarded as a ‘player’s coach’ for a long time. For at least as he has been in Pittsburgh. This phrase has been used as both a compliment and a pejorative, but now some people just aren’t so sure if that’s even true.
If he is such a player’s coach, then it’s hard from the outside to explain the situations that have developed in recent years with players like James Harrison, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown. Harrison was released during the 2017 season. Bell no-showed in 2018. Brown is looking to be traded in 2019.
Brown is of course the most recent and the most volatile discussion, and has been the driver in the conversation for much of the criticism of Tomlin over the course of the past couple of months, many arguing that he enabled Brown to become the personality that he is now that has allowed the situation to arise to a necessary divorce.
General Manager Kevin Colbert continues to deny that it’s an inevitability, however, and while he wouldn’t talk too much about the intricacies of what it would take for Brown to remain on the roster in 2019 in the event that he isn’t traded, he lauded Tomlin’s skill in managing players as a reason that the team would be comfortable in that scenario.
“I’ve seen players during the course of a game, after a game to the next game, after a season to the next season, things always change. That’s not uncommon. We’ve seen it a million times”, he said at the Combine yesterday. “Players get emotional. Players get through it. Players come out of it. Teams benefit if they can all manage that. And that’s something I know Coach Tomlin’s been great at. Coach Tomlin understands and manages player emotions very well, so I have no worry about his ability, not just in Antonio’s case, but in any player’s case”.
Brown is clearly one of the most emotional players on the team, a fact that we have all been well aware of, but that emotion has been expressed in less and less productive ways, especially over the course of the past year—and over the past two months.
“Coach Tomlin treats our players like men”, Colbert said. “He gives them the opportunity to be a man. And he tries to grow them, not only as professional football players, but as fathers, as brothers, just as men”.
This has long been the case—and Tomlin is also known to say that he treats every player fairly, not equally—but the organization is considering what lessons they can learn from these recent experiences with players at the same time in the hopes of avoiding it the next time.