Tomlin Says He Was ‘Irate’ Refs Called Gay Penalty Off Replay

It wasn’t about the call. It was all about the timing. That’s why Mike Tomlin said he was, in his words, “irate,” after the refs flagged William Gay for unnecessary roughness on 3rd and 18, keeping a crucial drive alive.

Tomlin agreed that the refs seemed to make the call after watching the replay on the Jumbotron.

“That’s why I was irate,” Tomlin told reporters. “I’m a big player safety guy. Obviously, I’m on the competition committee. So very rarely you’re going to hear arguments from me regarding calls relative to that. Provided they’re done in real time. I thought they called it off the Jumbotron and I won’t accept that. ”

By my rough estimate, it took officials more than 20 seconds following the hit to throw the flag, issuing it after the replay.

As is usually the case, the refs didn’t offer much of an explanation. And Tomlin’s “bad cop” approach, he admits, probably didn’t help matters.

“You don’t often times get legitimate explanations when you’re asking some of those questions. Maybe some of the time it has to do with the nature of how I ask the question. I need to be more politically correct if I want an answer in some of those instances.”

While it was clearly the correct call, Gay made contact with the receiver’s helmet, the process was certainly flawed and Tomlin’s anger understandable. The Cleveland Browns kept their drive alive and marched down the field until T.J. Watt picked off DeShone Kizer, one of the pivotal plays of the game. We’ll have a film review of that play tomorrow morning.

Despite all that, Tomlin stands by the player safety rules and said he sees no reason to change them.

“The onus is on the defender as it should be. That guy is in a defenseless position. He’s attempting to catch the football. In the essence of player safety, we’re going to be unwavering in our approach to that…even though some of those plays are somewhat debatable, we have no intentions of taking a step back in terms of improving the safety of those who play the game.”

The Steelers will need to cut down on the 13 penalties they racked up Sunday, the most they’ve had in an opener since 2002, to beat a good-looking Minnesota Vikings team and begin the year 2-0.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Steeler-Drew

    A no call overruled by the Jumbotron and crowd pressure. Nice!

  • srdan

    I agree with tomlin that it’s very inconsistent to use the jumbo tron in this one situation. You either institute it as a tool, or you don’t.

  • george

    You can’t institute it as a tool because the hometeam decides what gets played on the jumbo tron.So the close calls on the hometeam won’t be shown.

  • srdan

    Of course that would be one of the considerations.

  • Kevin Michael

    I think it’s more to say, do we want these plays to be available to review in a challenge scenario. Because they remain somewhat subjective, I think the answer should remain “no”. The games are long enough, and the review process is already painful enough. You just hope the calls balance out over the season.

  • Big White

    He hit the bobbling ball first. Legal play. Gay actually had a couple of big hits and solid tackles in that game. All the more reason for Depot Heads to call for his release.

  • Patrick Donovan

    Homefield advantage

  • Robert E Lil

    Big player safety guy needs to discipline his defense to play fundamental football

    Nobody – especially Tomlin- is saying it wasn’t a penalty

  • John Pennington

    And he should be but what is doing about it take it to the league as a protest so it cant ever happen again.Get a rules change.

  • francesco

    It’s time Tomlin takes himself off this commitee. He is being taken advantage of and can’t do anything about it.

  • nikki stephens

    “The onus is on the defender as it should be. That guy is in a
    defenseless position. He’s attempting to catch the football.”

    Sadly, talking about politically correct?! Hey Mike, you have drank from the goodell Kool-aid. The reason why we HAVE DEBATE on this site …and many others – IS because you are enforcing and penalizing the IMPOSSIBLE. Look at the picture at the top of this frickin article. Gay is 5’10 tackling a 6’2 WR and Gays knees are bent as he goes in to tackle where the WR would be holding the ball had he NOT bobbled and crouched. There is no one absent a DC comic or Marvel superhero that can compensate (changing tackling motion and body configuration) within LESS than a second. NO ONE CAN DO IT – NO ONE….and until we all grow up and realize it is possible to have a head and helmet hit unintentionally, we will suffer under this idiot-ocracy.

  • SwagDaddy330

    It is not impossible to hit a guy without contact to the head. I’ve seen it lots of times.

    Kidding aside, the rule sucks. But it’s the rule.

  • pcantidote

    While I agree with the spirit of what you are saying, what would have stopped Gay from aiming for his thighs rather than his chest? Of course, I am guaranteeing you that Tomlin (as a former DB) and Lake and others preach that they put a hat on the BALL– which takes us back to your original point.

  • nikki stephens

    The problem is a coach, a media, casual fans (who drink and talk in the loge and couldn’t tell you which team has the ball) that go along w/ this false narrative. What coach T should do and others is spell out the problem as I did. We HAVE all seen intentional head shots (example Cincy LB , name escapes me) but there has to be the hockey standard of accounting for the movement of the hit-ee not ONLY on the hitter.

  • Len Houston

    What was shocking about that call was an earlier non-call when the Browns’ safety Calhoun hit Bell near the Browns’ goal line. You could hear the pop of helmet to helmet and if you watched the replay as Calhoun came from the back side of Bell he made direct contact with the side of Bell’s helmet. Look at Bell’s face as he is getting ready to get up after that play, he looked dazed. But no call. That was a sloppy game played by the Steelers, but the refs were Aldo very bad with the penalty calls. Let’s hope this is not a trend with officiating again this year.

  • NYCSteelCurtain


  • Alex Kozora

    That type of hit is legal. Doesn’t apply to runners.

  • LucasY59

    was Bell running the ball, or was it a pass? different rules for different plays (so that it can all be too confusing to get the call right)

  • LucasY59

    if hockey can do it so can football…but they also let Hockey players punch each other in the face

  • VaDave

    Just asking, but couldn’t you lead with your hands instead of your head? The guy is on the side line it’s 3 down short of the sticks, you just shove him out of bounds and be done with it.