clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Steelers News: Analyzing the wicked web spun by Mike Tomlin

Time to check on the latest news surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.

Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at the most wicked web spun by Mike Tomlin, the Antonio Brown fiasco just merely the latest example of the bed the Steelers’ head coach has made, which the team is now forced to lay in.

Let’s get to the news:

The bed Mike Tomlin has made with the Steelers

By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN

His top playmaker is skipping meetings and sabotaging games and sparking trade scenarios. His other top playmaker bagged the entire season. His team dropped four games in five weeks by seven points or fewer.

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stood at a podium Wednesday as a man under attack. He was ready for all the smoke.

“I accept responsibility and I foster and develop every aspect of our culture,” Tomlin said. “That’s this game. That’s leadership. You embrace and respect and honor all aspects of that, certainly.”

If there’s one benefit of a missed playoff appearance, of wide receiver Antonio Brown’s absence and running back Le’Veon Bell’s holdout, it’s this: A successful head coach can rediscover his edge.

How Tomlin handles the Brown saga and his coaching staff in the next few weeks and months will say plenty about the 2019 Steelers.

What happens when one of the NFL’s most accomplished current coaches shoots a 17-game brick dating to the failed onside kick in the playoffs against Jacksonville?

An impressive 123-64-1 career record loses some of its shine.

Fans who never were sold on him will feel emboldened, waving that “players’ coach” label proudly.

Previous issues -- such as three playoff wins since 2011 despite 82 regular-season victories during that span -- are no longer camouflaged, but illuminated.

After missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013, Tomlin isn’t hiding from any of that. He never has, often pointing out that winning is the only prerequisite for job security.

Tomlin promised that he and his staff, which could feature moving parts in the next week, would “wallow” in the 9-6-1 season and embrace change, however it comes.

“Is it challenging? Certainly. Am I appropriately compensated for those challenges? Certainly,” Tomlin said. “When you get tired of those challenges, when you wear the whistle and you stand at the podium, you need to find a new line of work. I just don’t have that sentiment. That’s why I embrace it in the ways that I do, not that I like it, not that it’s enjoyable. It’s not, but I’m not running, and I’m certainly not seeking comfort in those things relative to our performance because when we’re good, you find ways to overcome them, you minimize, you make them less of a story.”

Tomlin is still the right coach for the Steelers in 2019, but hard decisions and harsh truths await as the Steelers formulate a plan to improve.

Mark Madden: Steelers, fans should be done with disrespectful Brown, Harrison

By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Most professional athletes don’t understand that every single one of them is disposable. That got proven when pro baseball not only survived but flourished after Babe Ruth retired and has been indisputably apparent ever since.

Pro football is the topic du jour now that Antonio Brown and his flunky, James Harrison, have done everything but declare war on the Steelers.

If every player on every roster disappeared tomorrow — perhaps struck down by a virus that kills those without sufficient humility — the NFL would carry on not long after. (Larry Fitzgerald would survive.) Teams would be stocked with new players. Fans would bet, tailgate, play fantasy football and buy replica jerseys. Somebody would be MVP. One team would win the Super Bowl.

After a short period of time, nobody would know the difference.

It’s the money that can’t be replaced. Art Rooney II is more important to the Steelers than Brown ever was or could be. That is beyond argument.

NFL players are employees, period. Not partners but employees.

They might be underpaid. They aren’t protected properly — not contractually and not physically (though I’m not sure how much more can be done regarding the latter within the context of a full-contact sport). They have legit gripes.

But they’re not slaves or anything resembling, as some big thinkers posit. The average NFL player makes $2.1 million. Slaves worked gratis, and the conditions were rather trying. (How could a sane person make that comparison?)

The NFL players’ complaints could be addressed in the next CBA, which will be negotiated after the 2020 season. They could have been addressed in any of the previous CBAs. Seven have been negotiated since the first one in 1968. But the players are loath to miss paychecks and too easily capitulate.

In 2020, the players will concede some important points if the league eliminates testing for marijuana. Bet that. Bigger issues will disappear in a cloud of smoke.

The players don’t owe the owners gratitude or vice-versa. The players do their jobs and are compensated.

Owners are rarely loyal to the players and vice-versa. That notion becomes more outdated all the time.

But there should be mutual respect.

That’s why Brown and his flunky, Harrison, should forever be subject to Pittsburgh’s scorn. There’s only one side to this story.

Harrison was a marginal player until the Steelers gave him a legit chance. The late Dan Rooney foolishly defended Harrison when he committed domestic abuse. Harrison left the Steelers after nine seasons, playing with Cincinnati in 2013. Harrison then “retired,” but Mike Tomlin brought him back to the Steelers. Harrison played four more seasons.

Harrison was OK, no better. But the Steelers kept paying him.

But, in 2017, the minute Harrison, at 39, saw his role diminish, he turned on Tomlin and the Steelers.

Harrison skipped meetings, often sleeping through them when he bothered to attend. He wouldn’t mentor young players, something the Steelers expect from veterans. Harrison inflicted commotion until he was released.

Harrison went to archrival New England. That got up the nose of the Steelers’ locker room. He often bad-mouths Tomlin. After taking a TV job, Harrison encouraged Le’Veon Bell to end his holdout, report, then bilk the Steelers by faking injury.

Yet the Steelers brought Harrison back to Heinz Field on Dec. 2 for the 10-year reunion of the 2008 Super Bowl-winning team. (Don’t say the Steelers had to. They do lots of reunions minus Terry Bradshaw. Troy Polamalu didn’t turn up for this one.) Harrison was his usual tactless self, proclaiming “I don’t need to be forgiven.”

Then, when the latest Brown controversy exploded, Harrison showed up on social media with Brown cackling on his shoulder, both openly mocking Tomlin’s Wednesday news conference (which was playing in the background).

Harrison has quite the vendetta against Tomlin, who mostly served as Harrison’s guardian angel. Tomlin got Harrison a lot of paychecks.

Harrison has no respect for Tomlin, the Steelers or anybody but himself. He’s been a bully his entire life. Without the Steelers and the Rooneys, Harrison’s career peak would have been NFL Europe. He owes the logo more respect than he’s given. Harrison should be dead to the Steelers and Pittsburgh.

Possible trade partners for Steelers and Antonio Brown

By: Chris Adamski, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

There wouldn’t figure to be a shortage of potential suitors for a perennial All Pro, future Hall of Fame receiver who’s on a run of the five best consecutive receiving seasons in NFL history.

Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that when it comes to Antonio Brown. So, if and when the Pittsburgh Steelers decide to explore a trade of their talented but troublesome star, the list of trade partners won’t be an unlimited one. A team will need to have an ability and desire to absorb not only Brown’s salary-cap hit but his less-than-ideal locker-room presence.

Also, don’t forget that as this would be a trade (not a free-agency signing), the Steelers would need to sign off on it, too. And teams generally are averse to trades — particularly those involving impact players — to rivals, be it in the division (sorry, Ravens and Browns) or out of it (forget it, Patriots).

So here are five conceivable landing spots for Brown that the Steelers could stomach (all salary-cap information via

Indianapolis Colts

Why: No team has more 2019 cap space (more than $121 million) and none have a better quarterback (Andrew Luck) for whom they would love to surround with weapons.

Why not: Indianapolis already has a star wide receiver in T.Y. Hilton — and you might have heard Brown hasn’t exactly showed he’s the type to want to share the ball.

New York Jets

Why: The Jets have the second-most cap space ($104.5 million) and have a high-pedigree rookie quarterback who could use a star receiver to flourish with. As a bonus, the Jets are considered something of the unofficial favorite to land the Steelers’ other mercurial star, Le’Veon Bell.

Why not: If the Jets target Bell, can they truly take on two massively paid superstars at the skill positions in one offseason?

Oakland Raiders

Why: The Raiders are seemingly at the top of everyone’s hypothetical list of Brown destinations because it’s a franchise that embraces big names — and, frankly, needs them after a 4-12 season and an impending move to Las Vegas in 2020.

Why not: Would Jon Gruden really trade a major asset for a top-flight receiver just months after trading away another top-flighty receiver for one? Oakland got a pick that will be in the No. 20s overall from the Cowboys for Amari Cooper in October.

(For the link in the headline.)