By and large, head coach Mike Tomlin is deliberate and careful with his words. He says what he means to say, and typically has a reason for saying it. He’s certainly put his foot in his mouth from time to time with some comment here or there, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t say what he meant to say.
I think that’s the category in which you could chalk up the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach’s comments toward the end of his pre-game press conference yesterday, when he was asked about the aftermath of the melee at the end of the Cleveland Browns game on Thursday.
Just to set the table once again, the Steelers were on their 17 with 14 seconds left, third and 29 and down 21-7. They ran a quick screen, allowing Myles Garrett to rush free. He took full advantage, throwing Mason Rudolph to the ground late for an uncalled roughing the passer penalty.
Rudolph responded by grabbing at Garrett’s helmet while they were on the ground, trying to dislodge it. Garrett then pulled the quarterback up by his facemask before ripping the helmet off altogether. As Steelers linemen intervened, Rudolph got up again and hastened in Garret’s direction, at which point the 2018 Pro Bowler struck him on the head with the helmet, triggering an indefinite suspension for him.
Afterwards, the benched started to clear and Maurkice Pouncey went after Garrett, throwing several punches and a kick as he was going to the ground, and while on the ground. Pouncey was suspended for four games.
When asked about what coaches could do to prevent similar incidents from occurring, Tomlin said, “I don’t know. You’ve got to ask those guys”, referring to the Browns. As a follow-up, he was asked what he himself could do.
“You know, I don’t know that we did anything to make it happen anyway in the first place. That’s why I said we didn’t have anything to learn from it”, was his response.
It’s hard to imagine that Tomlin didn’t know exactly what he was saying, given his long and documented history. I’ve seen every press conference he’s given in the capacity of Steelers head coach over the past 13 years, so I’ve got a generally good feel for his approach.
This was a pointed remark making it clear that he fully puts the onus on the Browns and Garrett for the way things escalated and got out of hand. Tomlin called it “ugly” and said that it compromised the integrity of the game.
Cleveland has its own view of what happened, of course. While none of explicitly justified Garrett striking Rudolph, some have gone so far as to say that the quarterback deserves to be suspended for his role in the confrontation.