Interpreting Steeler’s Head Coach Press Conference After the 2013 Combine


August 30, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin reacts to a call against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers website posted a transcript of Mike Tomlin’s recent press conference after the Combine.  As usual, there was nothing earth-shattering in the comments.  Should I be surprised?  Tomlin is very adept at avoiding polarizing comments.  It’s the hallmark of his relationship with the press.  I would contend that sometimes his word choice is meant to deliberately send some (not necessarily the journalists or reporters) to their dictionaries.  However, he always delivers his views in a professional manner and I’m glad he is at least not counted among the surly head coaches.  I also have no problem with how little he provides during the conferences.  Sometimes I have to shake my head at the questions that get asked.  However, I saw a few things in his “After-the-Combine” conference that I thought were noteworthy.

First, very little focused on the combine.  Tomlin didn’t name any athlete as a subject of interest and was complimentary to how prepared the athletes are, as a whole, to go through the process that includes hours of interviews.  I’m not going to read anything into that, but I think it shows that the days of inarticulate, knuckle-dragging athletes might be numbered, if they aren’t already gone.  Gronk may disprove me.  However, Alex Karras will forever be funny in Mel Brook’s Blazing Saddles:  “Mongo just pawn in game of life.”  I bet Karras would have said “Yo soy fiesta” better too.

Second, Tomlin described Richard Mann, the new wide receivers coach, as a “football purist” and a “good communicator.”  Tomlin also laughed when he was asked if there were problems in the locker room and replied “No.”  Ok, as a semi-professional speculator (Ok, seriously, hobbyist speculator), I’m calling BS on the “No” response to the locker room problems and I’m looking at the description of Mann as a very telling phrase.  It’s pretty obvious that somewhere, somehow, the players were not all on the same page last year.  Sure, you can blame some of it on the dysfunction from Mike Wallace’s holdout and attitude, but can you put it all on him?  No.  The drops, the fumbles and other unexplainable offensive problems are too numerous to not wonder about communication problems.  With so many coaching position changes, I hope that communication is ironed out EARLY in the upcoming training camps.  How about simply saying “When I talk, you listen” and “Do what I tell you to do?”  I don’t know, that’s probably far too simplistic but it has always worked for me.

Third, Tomlin was asked if he needed to plan how to stop the read-option offense during the offseason.  I’m not even going to go into the reasons why I don’t understand why the question needed to be asked.  However his answer made me scratch my head:  “No. For us, we’re a rules-oriented, fundamentalist group.  More than anything, the read-option allows us an opportunity to reinforce some of the support unit rules and things that our defense is built on.”  HUH?  First of all, he made the team sound like some group storing food and weapons for the upcoming apocalypse.  Is it a stress on rules?  During a few of the collapses in the 2012 season where the Steelers let the game get away from them, the Steelers looked very undisciplined and sloppy.  So, if they concentrate of the “rules” (which are what?), then they are prepared to adjust for any situation?  Ok, I’m going to say that this is a “back-to-basics” approach for the upcoming season.  Anyone else have any interpretations?

Fourth, Tomlin was asked if he subscribed to needing cornerbacks who can play man-to-man.  In typical Tomlin fashion he said:  “What you need is an ample number of guys in the box to defend the run.  You can do that with man coverage, zone coverage, or pressure for that matter.”  He also said, “The issue is the number of guys you employ in the box to defend it.”  Ooookay, thanks for that.  I’m going to say that yes, you believe that cornerbacks should be able to play man-to-man, but you want versatility.  Well, who doesn’t?

Thank you, Mr. Tomlin, for not disappointing me.  I am left to puzzle out what you said.  I don’t blame you for the cryptic responses and I think some questions beg those kinds of responses.  However, as a Steelers fan, all I needed to hear/read was your last statement about being an 8-8 team last year:  “…[W]e lost some in 2012.  We don’t have any intentions of repeating that in 2013.”