Yesterday was the first time since the end of the 2018 season that we heard from Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin. Back then, it was a more innocent time, during which we were only in the incubatory phase of The Antonio Brown Situation™ that has plagued and continues to taint the team’s offseason. The pre-blonde-mustache era, if you will.
A lot has transpired—a lot of words have been spoken, by players who are no longer members of the franchise—over the course of the months to follow, with virtually no meaningful rebuttal from player, coach, or ownership.
The only thing that Tomlin really offered at the end of the season, following their early exist with no postseason berth, was this: “I accept responsibility and I foster and develop every aspect of our culture, so that’s this game. That’s leadership. You embrace and respect and honor all aspects of that, certainly”.
The team’s culture has been under immense scrutiny since then, especially his role in it. He has been accused of enabling Brown and Le’Veon Bell, and Brown and Bell have accused him of enabling Ben Roethlisberger. Many want to see him fired, and the team has bee non-committal about his contract being extended later this offseason, as it would normally be. So what did he have to say today?
Not as much as I hoped.
“I expect growth and development from all of us based on the experiences that we’re a part of”, he told local reporters while in attendance at the annual league meeting yesterday. “And I expect growth and development from myself from a leadership standpoint based on the experiences that we have, so that’s not unreasonable”.
That sounds more like something he would say after any disappointing season, not one that specifically addresses the nuances of the breakdown of two critical relationships within the organization. Even General Manager Kevin Colbert said during the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine that he hoped the team would learn from these experiences. Owner Art Rooney II said the same thing this offseason.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging that you did some things in a way that you later regret and hope that you learn from that original experience so that you don’t make that same mistake in the future.
If there is something I would fault Tomlin for, it’s with not being open enough about things like that. It’s not that he never acknowledges his imperfections, but it’s a rare moment that he is ever specific about it unless it concerns a specific in-game decision.
Would he ever say that it was a mistake to allow Brown to live off-campus during training camp or to essentially allow him to be late to everything? I certainly don’t think so. Would it make any difference if he were to say that? Probably not.