One of the more amusing stories for the Pittsburgh Steelers this season was the rumors surrounding head coach Mike Tomlin and his purported connections to vacant head coaching positions at the college level. The most notable was an inadvertent leak by former Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer, who told Dan Patrick that they considered Tomlin a ‘wild card’ candidate for the job at USC…which, unbeknownst to him, nobody had ever said publicly before.
It all ultimately led to Tomlin being asked a question about that job and others he was supposedly being connected to in one way or another, including Ryan Clark’s LSU. He gave a very emphatic negative to all the speculation. “’Never say never’, but never”, was the quote that came out of that.
That didn’t stop his players from having a little fun with it, though. A day after Tomlin’s press conference, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke to the media, and as he revealed last week, he did so with a little flair—wearing some USC gloves. This time he was on the Dan Patrick show, talking about how that all went down.
“My agent called me and said, ‘did you hear what Carson said?’. I’m like, ‘no’, and he told me”, he said of how he first heard of the rumors. “Coach T just happened to call me, or I called him, and I said, ‘hey, it looks like you’ve got some things to talk about’. He’s like, ‘what are you talking about?’. He had no idea, and I told him, and he’s like, ‘are you serious? Like, it’s news?’. I’m like, ‘I think you’re gonna have to answer for it’”.
“I think he was doing his press conference the next day, and that’s when all the stuff came out. So I was speaking to the media the day after that, and I was like, I’ve been with Coach T long enough, I’ve got to go”, he added, about his plan to play with the rumors.
“I was looking for stuff in JuJu’s locker. He had a sweatshirt, but that was a large and it would’ve looked too ridiculous, so I just put the gloves on and had them in the hoodie and tried to just, you know, tip the cap, just a very subtle thing. Just having some fun”.
So there you have it: They were actually JuJu’s USC gloves, all along. Smith-Schuster, on the Reserve/Injured List, of course came out of USC in 2017, where the Steelers drafted him in the second round. It seems fitting that at least some part of him was involved in this…yet it got no reaction.
“Surprisingly, he never said anything, so maybe he didn’t see it”, Roethlisberger said about how Tomlin responded to the jest. “Next time, I was thinking of just, literally any school that’s got availability, I was gonna try and do it, just to see what happens”.
Of course, these things are much easier to play around with when you’re winning, and the Steelers are riding a three-game winning streak. Had this come a few weeks earlier, it would have been a much different story.