‘Nameless Gray Faces’ No Longer Exist, Says Mike Tomlin

The world is changing at a very fast pace, and the NFL is being affected by it. Fifteen years ago the way the game was played was completely different, and even interactions between players across the league was different. With smart phones and social media, players are connected more than ever before and it changes the way coaches have to coach. It even makes certain “Tomlinisms” obsolete.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is known for his way with words and unique phrases, what must of us call “Tomlinisms.” Today, Tomlin joined former Steelers offensive lineman Willie Colon on Mad Dog Radio and talked how because of the ever-changing world there a no longer any “nameless gray faces.”

“I think it’s all different culturally, Willie, I think it is, man,” Tomlin said. “I just think the familiarity among the guys, whether they play for us or play for others, I think that changes the dynamics of it. These guys have known each other since high school, they played in All-American games and been on the camp circuit. They got social media relationships from a distance and so forth, and I just think that familiarity with that opponent has changed the nature of some of that. That’s no longer a nameless gray face. They have individual relationships with those people and have had longstanding relationships with those people before they played for the Steelers or they played for the opposing team. And I think that that changes the dynamic of it.”

Rivalries still help drive the NFL. The Steelers still don’t like the Baltimore Ravens in the year 2023 and they didn’t like them back in 2008. But the players are friends now, they know each other due to the way social media is and the fame of these professional athletes.

As Tomlin said, back before social media really took off and youth sports became so competitive and important to get into a good school, professional athletes didn’t know each other as personally as they do now.

Back in say 2008, the opponent was truly a nameless gray face, you saw them on game day and that was usually it. Now, you see players from the Steelers and Ravens congratulating each after games other or posting pictures of jersey swaps after the game. There is nothing wrong with it; it reflects of how interconnected the world is now and how everyone knows each other. At the end of the day football is just a game.

But, when the Steelers and Ravens play in 2023, those aren’t nameless gray faces like they were back in the mid-2000s. That “Tomlinsim” in the old meaning in which you simply didn’t know the opponent on a personal level is now obsolete.

Tomlin has done a great job adapting to an ever-changing society and still finding a way to motivate his players to win and fight hard against their friends. Tomlin’s ability to get his team up for big games is world class. There is no coincidence that since he has taken over as head coach, he hasn’t had a losing season. He’s a great coach who knows how to motivate his players.

With a “Tomlinism” becoming obsolete, it will certainly be interesting if a new one pops up this season to take the place “nameless gray faces.”

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