Whatcha Talkin ‘Bout, Tomlin?


I like Mike Tomlin. He has the passion and energy I want to see in a head coach. But he drives me crazy with the things he says. I know all coaches exaggerate and enjoy lying to the media but Tomlin has taken it to an art form. It’s a good thing he’s experienced success so early in his career, albeit with Bill Cowher‘s team, because any other coach who made some of the statements he’s made would be ripe for ridicule.

At least national ridicule. The fawning local media permanently entrenched in the Pittsburgh Steelers hip pocket wouldn’t dare say a negative word about him. I wonder if the beat reporters get Super Bowl rings for their loyal service?

Anyway, for new readers, from time to time throughout the season I will present Whatcha Talkin’ ‘Bout, Tomlin? These columns highlight some of his more head-scratching nonsense such as last year when he promised to “Unleash Hell” and yet Hell sadly remained leashed until the last three weeks of the season.

We have two bizarre statements from two different articles. First, there was this gem in the P-G regarding how he intends to handle the running game this season:

"“We’re going to be thoughtfully non-rhythmic here as we get started but for different reasons, one to preserve Rashard to be inclusive to the contributions of those men.”"

So the Steelers don’t employ the rhythm method?

*Whew*   The team has had enough PR problems this off-season.  Last thing we need is an Antonio Cromartie (7 kids by five different women) or Travis Henry (11 kids by nine different women) situation on our team.

Or you could interpret that comment as Tomlin saying “We’re planning to use the running-back-by-committee approach.” but that would be too easy, too clear, and use far too few words.

Then we have this whopper from NFL.com yesterday when asked if Ben Roethlisberger will be his starter when he returns in week six:

"“I’m going to dodge that one, and not artfully.  I’m not going to back myself in corner.”"

As a CMU alum, I always appreciate a clever Dickens reference.  Well played, Tomlin.  However, what I don’t understand is why he wouldn’t just come out and say Ben is our QB and Dennis Dixon is holding down the fort until he returns.  Is this some secret nobody in the NFL is supposed to know about?

If Tomlin was trying to build Dixon’s confidence, I don’t think that was the best way to go about it.  Besides, DD is a smart guy.  I’m pretty sure he understands what his role is here.  Dangling the carrot that, “Hey, the job is yours as long as you can hold it” creates nothing but problems.   If Dix plays well, he’s going to be bitter about being banished to the bench when the big goof returns.  And if Big Ben has a bad game or two (entirely possible since the schedule becomes murderous around his return), that statement will cause the yinzers to start screaming for a QB change.

And let’s be honest, if Tomlin is seriously considering keeping Dixon at center when Ben is ready to play, he needs his head examined.  Ben has proven he’s our franchise quarterback and if this off-season hasn’t been enough to get rid of him, then a couple stupid interceptions against the Saints shouldn’t be either.

This is not a knock against Dixon, though.  I have no doubt he’ll do very well in Ben’s absence and then leave the Steelers where he’ll blossom into a top 10 NFL quarterback while we suffer through years of wondering what might have been.  But this team is built to win now and Ben is the proven QB, Dixon is not.