Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, mike tomlin is heading into his 16th season in the NFL as the leader of the black and gold. He never had a losing season during his tenure and he also never started a season without Ben Roethlisberger as his starting quarterback. Tomlin joined Peter King of NBC Sports this week to discuss the Steelers and the team’s outlook for the 2022 season.
“15 years as a head coach, I’ve never had a losing season,” King told Tomlin. “A lot of people wonder how good this team is going to be. Could this be the first year you haven’t won a lot?
King, formerly of Sports Illustrated which is perhaps best known for its popular Monday Morning Quarterback column, says the normally poised Tomlin took umbrage with his line of questioning. The media is laser-focused on the uncertainty at the quarterback position for the Steelers and how Tomlin will handle the nomination of the eventual starter. According to King, the obviously annoyed veteran head coach replied:
“You expect us to be mediocre? Bring it on, bring it on. Quote me.”
The three-time National Sportswriter of the Year was caught off guard by Tomlin’s attitude about the issues surrounding the 2022 Steelers and their performance at the start of the season. The Pittsburgh head coach is normally very measured in his responses to questions from the media. According to King’s weekly column, Tomlin explained the philosophy he will use to build this team.
“I’m not really looking for the comfort of a group of veterans,” Tomlin said. “I approach building a team the same way every year. That’s how I’m wired. I understand the question, but that’s just not my style.
Tomlin wins the press conference for the 15 years he’s been leading the team. No one is more direct and open with the media than the Pittsburgh head coach. His performance on the podium generated multiple “tomlinisms”. The well-known pithy comments spread across the country and became part of the fabric of the Steelers organization. He was a media darling for most of his tenure and eminently quotable.
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Mike Florio and Phil Sims referred to the interview in Wednesday’s edition of Professional Football Discussion when they were talking Brian Flores and the punishment inflicted on Miami Dolphins by the NFL this week. After the pair paid tribute to the Steelers organization for having the integrity to hire Flores as a defensive assistant while the process unfolded, they voiced their own opinions on King’s interview with Tomlin.
“Go ahead and sleep on the Steelers, they’ve got Mike Tomlin and Brian Flores,” Florio said. “Anytime they’re considered not to be very good, that’s when they end up having a very good year. Peter King pissed off Mike Tomlin and he got mad at him and said, “Go ahead.” They thrive on that; the whole organization does.
King, who is also well known as a power broker in determining Hall of Fame finalists, may be exaggerating or confusing intensity with annoyance. The only time I remember Tomlin getting upset at a press conference was when he was asked if he was interested in the USC Trojans head coach position. Tomlin seemed prepared from his opening press conference in training camp to deal with the uncertainty and adversity the Steelers would face this season, so it seems out of place for him to be short with the veteran sports journalist.
“100%,” Simms replied. “They have a lot of bad guys there. I mean in a way they to like the fight. They appreciate criticism. It’s a very real thing in Pittsburgh. I’ve experienced that, I saw Mike Tomlin when he was one of our defensive coaches in Tampa, he thrives on that. He becomes a better leader and motivator when put in that corner.
King may very well have pressed Tomlin’s last nerve with the line of questioning. Virtually every pundit, including Las Vegas bettors, predicts the Steelers won’t have a winning record and end up in the AFC North basement. Pittsburgh will take to the field for its first preseason game on August 13 against the Seattle Seahawks who are also engaged in quarterback competition. It is likely that Mitch TrubiskyMason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett will make an appearance, but the first pre-season game is unlikely to affect the depth chart permanently.
Tomlin will need every ounce of his willpower to remain patient with the endless parade of the same questions until they announce the starter for opening day against the Cincinnati Bengals. If frustration fuels the fire to prove everyone wrong, then maybe Florio is right and the Steelers could have a special season in 2022.
What do you think, Steeler Nation? Do you think an angry Mike Tomlin is a better coach? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.