Kevin Gorman: Steelers’ Mike Tomlin learns nothing from brawl
When Mike Tomlin said the Pittsburgh Steelers had “nothing to learn” from the fighting fiasco in the final eight seconds of their game at the Cleveland Browns, he did so dismissively.
The Steelers coach started his weekly news conference by accepting responsibility for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ actions in the “unfortunate incident” that drew three suspensions and $250,000 fines for both teams with more fines on the way.
Tomlin ended it by shifting the blame to the Browns when asked if there was anything coaches could do to prevent another unfortunate incident from happening in the future.
“I don’t know that we did anything to make it happen anyway, in the first place,” Tomlin said Tuesday at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex. “That’s why I said we didn’t have anything to learn from it.”
Well, I beg to differ. If nothing else, we learned you absolutely, positively cannot pull the helmet off an opposing player and hit him over the head with it.
Not even in the NFL.
The league suspended Browns defensive end Myles Garrett indefinitely for doing that to Mason Rudolph, who plays quarterback for the Steelers, the team Tomlin coaches.
The league also suspended Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi one game for pushing a helmetless Rudolph near the goal line, knocking him to the ground with a blindside shove. So we learned you can’t do that, either.
And the league suspended Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey three games for retaliating against Garrett for hitting Rudolph with his own helmet by throwing punches at Garrett and then kicking him. That’s another no-no.
Add that to the list of things we learned.
Tomlin was reticent to say much, other than to call the final eight seconds of the Steelers’ 21-7 loss to the Browns “ugly” and attempt to steer questions toward Sunday’s game at the winless Cincinnati Bengals.
“It was ugly for the game of football,” Tomlin said. “All of us involved in the game, particularly at this level, want to safeguard and protect the game, its integrity. In that instance, it was compromised, obviously, with an unfortunate incident. None of us want those things to transpire. It did. We were a part of it. We accept responsibility for our actions within it.”
So Tomlin’s team was involved in an ugly and unfortunate incident that compromised the integrity of NFL football, and one of the men whose job is to safeguard and protect the game learned nothing because … the Steelers didn’t start the fight?
That’s total nonsense.
These were Tomlin’s first comments on the fight with the Browns, as he refused to discuss the incident after the game. That was intentional, he said, as it “had little to no bearing on the outcome of the game.”
What’s insulting is Tomlin’s insistence he didn’t want to “seek comfort in that sidebar distraction and not talk about what really needs to be talked about from our perspective — that we played a losing football game.”
Hate to break this to everyone, but the first 59 minutes and 52 seconds of that game became irrelevant the moment it crossed the line from tackling a quarterback to assault and battery.
The Steelers were actively involved in not just an ugly and unfortunate incident but one of the most disgraceful moments in NFL history. Both sides are attempting to play the victim here, when everyone involved is guilty to some degree.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 15, 2019
Yet the Steelers have offered only half-hearted statements, as team chairman Art Rooney II said he was “disappointed” and called it a “shame that the game ended that way.” That’s hardly accepting responsibility for their actions within it.
Tomlin could have condemned the actions of everyone involved. He could have offered support for his players, especially to offensive linemen David DeCastro and Matt Feiler, for attempting to act as peacemakers.
Instead, he copped out — so as to avoid affecting the outcome of Pouncey’s appeal of his suspension — by offering little to nothing.
“I’m not getting into those things, nothing relative to fines, suspensions, appeals,” Tomlin said. “It doesn’t help us or me or anyone who is going through that process to talk about them in these settings.”
Clearly, Tomlin doesn’t like being disciplined by the NFL, which hit him with a $100,000 fine for the Jacoby Jones sideline incident in 2013, and $25,000 earlier this month for failing to list Ben Roethlisberger on an injury report. It’s understandable.
But the Steelers were involved in this incident — whether they started it or not — and Tomlin should have taken accountability instead of ultimately contradicting himself.
Instead, when it came time to take a stand and speak out to safeguard and protect the integrity of the game, the Steelers coach showed he has learned nothing.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .