While 12 teams spent their time this past week preparing to play games, either over the course of this weekend or next week, the Pittsburgh Steelers were one of the 20 remaining organizations instead beginning the process of wrapping a bow around 2019. For the second year in a row.
One of the primary activities during that process is the series of exit meeting interviews that head coach Mike Tomlin and other head personnel have with players, primarily, but also coaches. They assess the previous season with whatever might need to be addressed as they forge a plan for the future. Generally, players have said of Tomlin that they appreciate him as somebody who lets them now where they stand.
While we don’t gain access to these exit meetings, of course, conducted behind closed doors, we do occasionally hear of what’s said when reporters ask players, for example, what Tomlin said to them at the end of the season. Sometimes they volunteer it themselves, for example, when they meet a goal he set out for them to achieve and they want people to know about it.
During his Tuesday press conference last week, Tomlin talked a little bit about that exit meeting process, perhaps a little more than we usually hear. “There is a dialogue”, he said, between the player and himself, so it’s not just about him letting them know what he thinks they need to hear.
“Their opinion or how much the player talks has a lot to do with the player and their relationship and how long they have been here and things of that nature. It is on a very individual basis”, he said. “But make no mistake. You need information in order to make decisions and judgements and evaluate. There is an exchange of information in these meetings for sure”.
When it comes to pending free agents, these meetings can give them a pretty good sense of what the team is thinking in terms of their being brought back. It’s especially big for young players, as they tend to be given goals for the offseason, their first full one as a professional if they’re rookies.
But the back and forth, the player part of the meeting, is something that we hear less about. And something that we think less about as well. We might sometimes forget that what occurs is a dialogue rather than a monologue.
One exit meeting I’d certainly like to be able to sit in would’ve been the one with Devlin Hodges. He lost the last three games, turning the ball over seven times, scoring just 20 total points, and was benched in the middle of it all. Tomlin often showered him with the faint praise of ‘he didn’t kill us’. Would he play on that?