Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin is heading into his 16th NFL season as the leader of the black and gold. He has never had a losing season during his tenure and he has also never entered a season without Ben Roethlisberger as his starting quarterback. Tomlin joined Peter King from NBC Sports this week to discuss the Steelers and the team’s prospects for the 2022 season.
“15 years as a head coach, never had a losing season,” King stated to Tomlin. “A lot of people are questioning how good this team is going to be. Could this be the first year that you don’t win a lot?”
King, formerly of Sports Illustrated who may be best known for his popular Monday Morning Quarterback column, claims that 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 naming the eventual starter. According to King, the obviously annoyed veteran head coach responded:
“You are hoping that we are 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 questions surrounding the 2022 Steelers and how they will perform when the season starts. The Pittsburgh head coach is normally very measured with his responses to questions from the media. According to King’s weekly column, Tomlin expounded on the philosophy he will use to put this team together.
“I don’t really seek the comfort of a veteran group,” Tomlin said. “I approach building a team the same every year. That’s how I’m wired. I understand the question, but it’s just not my style.”
Tomlin has been winning the press conference for the 15 years he has been leading the team. No one is more direct and open with the media than Pittsburgh’s head coach. His performance on the podium has spawned multiple “Tomlinisms.” The well-known pithy comments have caught on around the country and become part of the fabric of the Steelers organization. He has been a media darling for most of his tenure and eminently quotable.
Steelers’ Mike Tomlin Laid Out His Remarkable Conversations With Brian Flores; How It Took 45 Minutes For Flores To Be Hired
Mike Florio and Phil Simms brought up the interview on Wednesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk when they were discussing Brian Flores and the punishment meted out to the Miami Dolphins by the NFL this week. After the pair gave credit to the Steelers organization for having the integrity to hire Flores as a defensive assistant while the process played out, they expressed their own opinions on the King interview with Tomlin.
“Go ahead and sleep on the Steelers, they got Mike Tomlin and Brian Flores,” said Florio. “Any time they are regarded as they are not that good, that’s when they end up having a pretty great year. Peter King pissed off Mike Tomlin and he got mad at him and said, ‘bring it on.’ They thrive on that; the whole organization does.”
King, who is also well known as a power broker in determining the finalists for the Hall of Fame, may be overstating or mistaking intensity for annoyance. The only time I can recall Tomlin getting annoyed at a press conference is when he was asked if he had interest in the USC Trojans head coaching position. Tomlin seemed prepared from his opening press conference in training camp to deal with the uncertainty and adversity that the Steelers would face this season, so it seems out of character for him to be short with the veteran sportswriter.
“100 percent,” replied Simms. “They have a lot of bad dudes there. I mean that in a way that they love the fight. They enjoy the criticism. It’s a very real thing in Pittsburgh. I’ve experienced it, I saw Mike Tomlin when he was one of our defensive coaches in Tampa, he thrives on it. He becomes a better leader and a better motivator when he’s put in that corner.”
King may very well have pressed on Tomlin’s last nerve with the line of questioning. Virtually every expert including Las Vegas oddsmakers are predicting that the Steelers will not have a winning record and finish in the cellar of the AFC North. Pittsburgh will take the field for its first preseason game on August 13th against the Seattle Seahawks who are also engaged in a quarterback competition. It is likely that Mitch Trubisky, Mason Rudolph and Kenny Pickett will make an appearance, but it is doubtful that the first preseason game will affect the depth chart permanently.
Tomlin will need every ounce of his willpower to stay patient with the endless parade of the same questions until they announce the starter for opening day against the Cincinnati Bengals. If the frustration is fueling the fire to prove everyone wrong, then Florio may be right on the money 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.