By Jeremy Hritz
Mike Tomlin once said that he is a “one foot in front of the other kind of guy,” but after the Thursday Night contest in Baltimore, those words have assumed new meaning.
Almost five days after the 22-20 loss to the Ravens, Tomlin’s sideline shuffle is becoming more ridiculous, and not because of the media attention it is garnering.
What is more absurd about the situation is that the coach that consistently preaches that “the standard is the standard” has descended below what the true standard of excellence in Pittsburgh is, and he is in jeopardy of becoming a “do as I say, not as I do” type of coach.
After the contest, Tomlin stated that he simply did not know where he was standing and that he “lost his placement” while watching the Jacoby Jones return on the Jumbotron. Unfortunately, the subsequent smile caught on camera did little to convince spectators that there was no deliberate intent.
Now, as new footage has emerged showing Tomlin clearly positioning himself as close to the field of play as possible, it becomes more difficult to believe that his near trip was an honest mistake. Combine this with his full step onto the field with his right foot milliseconds prior to Jones running by him, and his argument of ignorance has more holes in it than the Steelers offense line did in the first four weeks of the season.
Did the move ultimately have any impact on the return itself? Probably not.
But that is not the point.
Sure, there was also no true impact on the outcome of the game, but the effects go beyond a simple win or a loss. If this shady form of gamesmanship was intentional, which it appears to be, what does it say about Mike Tomlin and his integrity?
What do his players, to whom he preaches humility and poise, think of his behavior? And how does the organizational leadership of the team interpret this incident?
There has been much speculation about what the punishment will be for Tomlin, and it has been rumored that everything from a hefty fine, suspension, or even a loss of a draft pick could be the cost for what appears to be his momentary lapse of judgment.
While a fine and even a suspension can be absorbed by the team, the loss of a draft pick could prove to be damaging, depending on which round it would be taken from. But more than that, for a coach that has chastised players for their selfish decisions that have resulted in personal fouls, losing a draft pick would be much more detrimental than losing 15 yards.
There is no doubt that every human being can and will makes mistakes, and Tomlin is no different. And while he has apologized for his behavior and accepted responsibility following the game, his words seemed to lack sincerity and authenticity.
The press conference this week will go a long way in revealing the fiber of Tomlin’s character; hopefully, it is consistent with how he has conducted himself throughout his career in Pittsburgh, and not how he did Thursday Night.