Kevin Gorman’s Take 5: Thoughts on Tomlin’s Tuesday talk on Tampa Bay
Mike Tomlin made it clear last week that he wants to talk about football, not social media. The Pittsburgh Steelers coach reiterated that stance, even after Antonio Brown’s “trade me” tweet.
But it was Brown’s missing team meetings Monday at UPMC Rooney Sports Complex that forced Tomlin to address whether the All-Pro wide receiver has become the distraction. For one, Tomlin didn’t address whether or not it was excused.
Brown was captured on camera getting into spirited sideline exchanges with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and wide receivers coach Darryl Drake. Brown left the locker room as reporters entered after the game, so the tweet was his only public comment since the game.
If reacting to a former team employee’s tweet that he should “thank his lucky stars” that he plays on the same team as Ben Roethlisberger with the “trade me” comment should have been the first strike, his absence Monday should serve as a second strike before a suspension.
But Tomlin didn’t sound like someone ready to suspend a star player.
“I’m looking forward to visiting with him today and discussing that and some other things,” Tomlin said. “I’m not going to get into the details of why he wasn’t here or whether he was excused and all of those things. I’d just as soon leave those things in-house.”
1. Anti-social behavior: Tomlin explained his stance on social media, especially as it relates to Brown, but was emphatic that he views his weekly news conferences as an obligation only as it relates to the discussion of football games.
“I’m not going to use this forum to address those things because I don’t think it’s appropriate,” Tomlin said. “I think that this forum is a very professional one. We’ve got a lot of football things to talk about: performance, personnel, opportunities, challenges that the game of football presents. I want to take that road when I’m standing in front of this podium representing this league. That’s just how I choose to approach it.”
Like it or not, Tomlin serves as the spokesman for the Steelers. To limit talk to football is disingenuous on his part, especially when the players in his charge create distractions that make headlines.
2. Swimming with sharks: Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that “this is a non-story.”
Rosenhaus said Brown’s reply to former media relations director Ryan Scarpino’s tweet “was not directed towards a trade, or wanting to be trading. Any idea he was asking for a trade is not accurate.”
Rosenhaus said Brown missed practice because he “had a personal matter,” one Rosenhaus said he discussed with the team and called it an issue “unrelated to the tweet or his relationship with the team.”
And, of course, Rosenhaus attributed Brown’s blowup to his “incredible drive to win.”
“He just wants to win,” Rosenhaus said. “That’s all that that is.”
Rosenhaus went so far as to say that Brown was “encouraging his coaches and teammates to win.”
So, Rosenhaus attempted to turn the tables on the Steelers, implying that they were aware of Brown’s absence and his outburst was nothing more than a display of his will to win.
That’s a good spin, but I’m not buying it.
3. Putting out fires: If this was simply about Brown being passionate about football and expressing his displeasure to coaches, Tomlin wouldn’t need to have a talk with his star receiver.
“We acknowledge tempers are going to flare,” Tomlin said. “We’ve got people that want to win.”
Brown went beyond that.
He should have ignored Scarpino’s tweet. Brown could have responded that he and Roethlisberger have made each other a lot of money, which was Big Ben’s answer on his weekly radio show.
But Brown brooded during the game, bolted afterward without talking and then fanned the flames with the “trade me” tweet.
That Rosenhaus intervened shows that this is more serious than he’s letting on, and that’s he’s trying to put out a fire before Brown burns any more bridges with the Steelers and his teammates.
4. Player relations department: Tomlin distinguished that Martavis Bryant’s suspension last year was “very different” because it involved “player among player relations.”
Bryant was suspended for the Detroit Lions game after replying to an Instagram post that JuJu Smith-Schuster was better by saying “JuJu is nowhere near better than me, fool. All they need to do is give me what I want and y’all can have JuJU and whoever else.”
How is Brown replying to a tweet that “Ben got AB paid” with the “trade me” comment not involving Steelers players?
If the Steelers want to make an exception for Brown because of his performance, that’s a different story. Brown hasn’t been arrested or suspended, like Le’Veon Bell and Bryant.
That he’s caused distractions in different ways should only be suspended if it’s considered detrimental to the team. Tomlin sounds like the Steelers haven’t reached that point yet.
If not, that makes you wonder what it would take.
5. Job security: If there’s a Steelers player who should be worried about playing in the next game, it’s more likely Jordan Berry.
Berry averaged 46.4 yards per punt but his net was only 31.6, and Tomlin stressed that the Steelers lost the field-position battle in the kicking game and called special teams “critical to the outcome of the game.”
Berry won a training camp battle with Matt Wile, who signed with the Minnesota Vikings, but could face competition this week.
“I’m not comfortable with the results I’ve seen so far,” Tomlin said. “We all could have been better, starting with myself.”
That’s a phrase the Steelers should repeat, maybe even tweet.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin at [email protected] or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.