PITTSBURGH — What has happened to you, Mike Tomlin?
Where person you gone?
The Pittsburgh Steelers request you back.
The coach — who seldom speaks to nan media much than erstwhile a week, unless thing large is up — stepped to nan lectern wrong nan UPMC Rooney Sports Complex aft believe Wednesday for nan 2nd clip successful 3 days. He had a aureate opportunity to reset nan communicative astir nan existent authorities of nan organization.
During an impromptu news convention 15 years agone (which, incidentally, was nan past twelvemonth this squad won a championship), Tomlin said of moving backmost Willie Parker, “Every greeting erstwhile I travel to work, I locomotion past 5 Lombardis, not 5 rushing titles.” Instead of utilizing George Pickens’ comments Tuesday to make a modern-day type of that line, Tomlin punted, for illustration he did pinch nan Steelers astatine nan Indianapolis Colts’ 39-yard statement trailing by 11 precocious successful nan 3rd 4th of Saturday’s loss.
Tomlin had a chance to make a much-needed connection that would resonate passim nan locker room aft 3 of nan worst losses of his profession successful a span of 14 days. Instead, he chose to coddle Pickens’ psyche.
Tuesday, Pickens was asked astir his deficiency of effort arsenic a blocker on a tally by Jaylen Warren against nan Colts.
“I was conscionable trying to forestall nan Tank Dell situation, nan aforesaid point that happened to (him),” Pickens said, referencing nan Houston Texans rookie receiver who fractured his fibula while blocking earlier this month. “I didn’t want to get an injury. When you enactment connected nan artifact excessively long, you tin get ran up connected very easily.”
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Tomlin said Wednesday that Pickens won’t beryllium benched for Saturday’s crippled against nan Cincinnati Bengals. Asked whether nan receiver would beryllium disciplined, Tomlin replied, “Not that I’m going to talk pinch (the media).”
“George is simply a talented guy, but he is increasing and increasing successful a batch of ways successful regards to shot and life,” Tomlin said. “We don’t tally distant from that, we tally to that organizationally. When we draught guys, we are committed to their maturation and improvement successful each areas. He is very overmuch a activity successful progress.”
Mike Tomlin connected George Pickens pic.twitter.com/gpbWV9e3xT
— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) December 20, 2023
Yeah, a acold outcry from his consequence precocious successful nan 2008 play erstwhile Parker complained astir not getting capable carries. Tomlin group nan grounds consecutive pinch his now celebrated line.
OK, nan Steelers were a overmuch amended squad past — they were 10-3 erstwhile Parker made his comments — but Tomlin’s consequence judge was memorable.
There person been different examples of Tomlin’s putting his ft down complete nan years: Not playing Santonio Holmes days aft he was charged pinch misdemeanor marijuana possession aft a postulation extremity successful 2008; sitting Martavis Bryant for a crippled successful 2017 aft he tweeted that teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster was “no measurement amended than me” and past calling successful sick nan adjacent day; aliases moreover sitting Antonio Brown successful a must-win 2018 play finale because of boorish behavior.
In 2012, Rashard Mendenhall was suspended 1 crippled aft he didn’t show up to a crippled because he was told he was going to beryllium listed arsenic inactive. In 2016, Eli Rogers dressed but didn’t play against nan New England Patriots aft reportedly missing a Saturday walk-through.
But Pickens sewage a walk astatine a clip erstwhile this organization, astatine slightest from nan outside, appears to request immoderate reliable love.
“I do what I person to do, and it comes pinch nan job,” Tomlin said. “(Pickens is) not nan first feline that I’ve had that needs maturation and improvement successful life areas.”
So Pickens’ reward for what could beryllium much egregious than thing nan different receivers did — you conscionable don’t say, “I gave up connected a play because I don’t want to get hurt” — will beryllium nothing. Well, possibly something, but thing that we will ever cognize about. He will play Saturday against nan Cincinnati Bengals.
Whether he sits retired a play, aliases a series, aliases is not introduced pinch nan starters to nan crowd is moot. With everything that has surrounded Pickens this twelvemonth — and most, if not all, is driven by his deficiency of large numbers because of a bad discourtesy and bad backmost play — he needed to beryllium publically embarrassed.
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That was nan adjacent measurement successful each of this. What is much embarrassing than getting deactivated for a game, truthful everybody knows astir it and everybody is alert of what was said? Remember: Pickens’ saying he didn’t want to get wounded was a nonstop slap successful nan look of his teammates. It has thing to do pinch nan fans aliases nan organization. It’s astir nan guys pinch whom he straps connected his helmet each game.
Bryant’s actions successful 2017 were selfish, and because it was directed astatine 1 of his teammates, he was dealt pinch appropriately. Brown was each astir himself and didn’t attraction if nan last crippled that twelvemonth meant everything, truthful he was told to spell home.
With his actions, Pickens sent a connection that he matters much than Cameron Heyward’s rushing backmost from groin surgery, Minkah Fitzpatrick’s wrapping up a surgery manus and returning to a game, T.J. Watt’s popping his digit backmost into spot and hardly missing a snap, and Kenny Pickett’s opting for room connected an ankle sprain to expedite nan treatment process and possibly return this year.
You tin spell down almost nan full roster and find a akin story. Yet nan coach felt nan request to protect Pickens’ feelings. What astir Najee Harris’ feelings, Diontae Johnson’s hamstring, aliases Allen Robinson — erstwhile a 1,400-yard and 14-touchdown receiver who is now being asked to artifact retired of nan slot?
How do you deliberation nan locker room responded to a teammate saying he didn’t want to get hurt?
“Ask them,” Tomlin said.
I don’t really request to. I tin presume I know, moreover if I americium a “surface media guy,” nan word Pickens utilized Tuesday.
But teammates said plentifulness Wednesday.
“You’ve sewage to put nan efforts retired location to create winning habits,” Robinson said. “I deliberation sometimes for younger players it whitethorn return immoderate clip to understand that aliases spot that.”
“At nan extremity of nan day, he was doing what he thought was champion for him,” Warren said of Pickens’ determination not to block, per nan Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Some group play nan crippled differently. If I was successful that position, I would person blocked for him. But we play differently, truthful …”
Pickens leads nan squad successful receiving, but nan passing game’s wide struggles person kept his numbers from approaching nan league’s apical receivers. (Joseph Maiorana / USA Today)
Pickens’ behaviour is conscionable not a bully look, and Tomlin enabled it to continue. I americium not successful favour of getting free of Tomlin, and I don’t deliberation he’s a bad coach. But erstwhile location are inconsistencies successful leadership, that’s erstwhile you suffer locker rooms. I don’t judge that has happened, but this makes you look a small spot person astatine nan situation.
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The only logic Pickens is fixed this leeway is because he’s a bully shot player. And erstwhile you are 7-7 and losers of 3 straight, you request each of nan bully shot players you tin find. But astatine what expense? That’s what you person to inquire yourself, and Tomlin’s reply was clear.
“He has talents, and we want to utilize them,” Tomlin said of why he didn’t suspend Pickens. “He is very overmuch successful maturation and development, but it would beryllium very overmuch nan aforesaid if he were winning games aliases if he said due things to you guys yesterday. You guys mightiness person gone away, but it wouldn’t person made maine immoderate much comfortable pinch this process he’s going through.
“It is not going to beryllium 1 incident aliases 1 gathering aliases 1 shape of subject that is going to institute nan type of alteration that we are hunting for,” Tomlin said. “It is going to beryllium continual. He is alert of that.”
The coach painted a image of an immature kid who needs guidance, and I get it. Who tin knock him for that?
That’s why if this didn’t straight impact teammates — and frankincense could beryllium a poison pill that’s passed astir nan locker room, arsenic Tomlin said “it surely can” beryllium — giving Pickens a walk would not only beryllium understandable but besides warranted. We don’t cognize what’s going connected down closed doors. We don’t cognize a lot.
But what we do cognize is that treating 1 subordinate pinch kid gloves makes it overmuch harder to travel down pinch an robust fist connected another, and this squad judge needed an robust fist. Instead, they sewage a container of chocolates and a twelve roses.
“The process astatine times is challenging because their talents are a blessing and a curse,” Tomlin said. “Somebody hates him for nary reason, and immoderate group springiness them everything they inquire for nary reason. We conscionable springiness him nan truth. When you are not doing your occupation and losing, you amended support your damn rima unopen and understand that attracts a definite type of attraction arsenic good … vulture-like attention.”
To me, Tomlin dropped nan shot connected this one.
He had it each teed up for different classical Tomlin infinitesimal but instead, he backed off.
Where person you gone, 2008 Mike Tomlin?
You judge were needed connected this day.
(Top photo: Justin Casterline / Getty Images)
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