“Leader of Men”
That Tweet by Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph on Monday afternoon was in reaction to his head coach, Mike Tomlin, going on national television—ESPN’s First Take—and defending him against the continued racial allegations that Browns’ defensive end Myles Garrett doubled down on in an interview that aired on Outside The Lines over the weekend.
To be perfectly honest with you, after I watched the interview in its entirety—an interview you can see a snippet of by clicking on the Rudolph Tweet—I wanted to run through a brick wall.
To quote Dave Schofield, my feelings were along the lines of, “That’s my head coach!”
I’m sure Rudolph was thinking the same thing as he watched his boss go to war for him by answering question after question from Stephen A. Smith.
As Tomlin told Stephen A., when the Outside The Lines feature aired on Saturday, he felt very strongly that he wanted to defend his quarterback because the accusations by Garrett were serious enough not only to damage Rudolph’s character, but “his professional pursuits.”
Let’s be real, Mike Tomlin doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot of time for the media. Like a lot of head coaches, he’d much rather keep reporters in the dark and, to quote the late, great Chuck Noll, “Feed them manure.”
Like he said after the infamous Chicago fiasco a few years ago, he likes to stay out of the BS. He likes to stick to business, so for him to feel it necessary to go on national television and defend his guy and also take ESPN to task for its portrayal of the whole Rudolph vs. Garrett incident, to me, earned him even more of my respect than he already had.
Tomlin could have stayed out of the fray directly and perhaps indirectly offered a statement or two through various media portals, but instead he chose to go to bat against one of the most hard-hitting and controversial sports media personalities in the country in Stephen A. Smith.
That showed tremendous leadership. That showed strength. That showed that he, too, can double down on his belief in something. And Tomlin never wavered in his defense of Rudolph, in his belief that his guy didn’t say what he was accused of, that he was satisfied with the thoroughness of the league’s investigation into the details of the brawl that took place between the Steelers and Browns in the waning seconds of a game at FirstEnergy Stadium last November 14.
When you hear Tomlin’s players—both past and present—talk about his character, one of the most common traits they mention is his directness and his honesty. I think all players—all employees who are engaged in their life’s work, really—want their bosses to be that way with them, to let them know the deal up front.
Ever wonder why Tomlin is always highly ranked in those polls of the most popular NFL head coaches opposing players want to play for? Tomlin offered a great reason why on Monday by going to bat for his backup quarterback, a guy who may not even figure into the team’s plans beyond another season or two, on a controversial topic that few people like to talk about.
Tomlin didn’t just represent Mason Rudolph on Monday, he represented the Steelers organization, and, believe me, there is very little chance that organization would be a party to something as sordid as the covering up of a racial slur—especially by their own player. That’s not what the Pittsburgh Steelers stand for, and I know they wouldn’t have sent Tomlin out to be the national spokesperson for this ongoing debacle if they didn’t believe Rudolph.
There’s simply too much at stake from an organizational standpoint.
Also, Tomlin, one of the most prominent African American coaches in all of professional and collegiate sports, wouldn’t put his reputation on the line if he didn’t believe in his player and his organization.
The Steelers had their name dragged through the mud last offseason thanks to former players like Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, and they remained fairly quiet in the face of that.
I think on Monday, with a “hacked off” head coach Mike Tomlin demonstrating such great strength in sticking up for Mason Rudolph, the Steelers showed that they’re not going to remain so quiet this offseason.