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Mike Tomlin: Player’s Coach Extraordinaire

Tomlin smirking tripping

Last week, I wrote a lengthy post about Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and his apparent hostility towards being labelled “a player’s coach.” This week, I’m going begin by apologizing to Coach T. I’m big enough to admit when I’m wrong. He’s not player’s coach.

Mike Tomlin is a player’s coach extraordinaire.

Let me take you back to Sunday’s game against Jacksonville. Yeah, I know, I’d prefer to forget about that dull and uninspired effort myself although it does beat counting sheep for when you need to fall asleep. Fourth quarter, eight point lead, the Steelers had a 1st and 10 coming out of the two minute warning. Jacksonville was out of time outs.  I’m not good at the maths but I’m pretty sure the Steelers could’ve taken three knees and gotten out of Dodge.

One minor problem though: Antonio Brown only had four catches.

Why is that a problem? Well, evidently AB has some convoluted “streak” going where he’s caught at least five passes in 21 straight games. I say convoluted because prior to Brown, the holder of this prestigious NFL record was all-time great Laveranues Coles. Yes, the Steelers risked a potential game-tying pick six in order to keep a record that was previously held by a middling journeyman who played for five teams in 10 years intact.

Mike Tomlin: player’s coach extraordinaire.

There is absolutely no doubt they called the play specifically to keep AB’s streak intact. Ben Roethlisberger admitted as much on his weekly radio show. The local cheerleader media, to their credit, actually asked Tomlin about it at his press conference yesterday. Coach T’s explanation? “[Brown]’s got a significant record that exemplifies what he’s doing in his career.” Oh right, the significant record previously held by Laveranues Coles that nobody even knew existed until Brown broke it.  So that’s his excuse for calling a Hines Ward Memorial – a little backfield screen pass designed to accomplish nothing beyond getting one specific guy a catch. It’s ridiculous. It’s bush league. 

I guess it’s the new Steeler Way.

Sure the team was winning. Sure the chances of utter catastrophe striking were pretty remote. Even if Jacksonville intercepted the pass, they still needed a two point conversion just to force a tie. But that’s missing point. Nobody cares about Brown’s catch streak except Brown – and probably his fantasy owners. There wasn’t a single fan sitting at home white-knuckling their Terrible Towel wondering if Sunday was the day when AB’s historic run of pass catching dominance would end. It’s a bogus record – a hollow accomplishment that makes for a nice sound bite but ultimately means nothing. 

So why risk it?

Because Mike Tomlin is a player’s coach. He wants his guys to like him. He needs his guys to like him. And he will bend over backwards to make sure they know he’s one of the boys. Tomlin can huff and puff about being called a “player’s coach” and he can toss out the race card as a way to deflect criticism of his many many failings as a coach but on Sunday that one play showed us EXACTLY what kind of boss Tomlin is. And while the results of the past few seasons have proven that’s not what the Steelers need, perhaps it is what they deserve.