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Mike Tomlin’s reaction to the USC rumor really fired me up

Mike Tomlin usually says a whole lot of nothing during his weekly press conferences. But his response to the USC rumor was so honest and got me more fired up than anything that’s happened during a Steelers game in 2021.

Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

This one time, when I was a research technician at the University of Pittsburgh, a doctor had a request that I knew would get my head screamed off the second I relayed it to my immediate supervisor.

Sure enough, I got the Dr. Cox from Scrubs treatment the minute I relayed this request, but what could I do? It was my job to ask my boss this question.

This was probably how reporter Tim Benz felt on Tuesday during Mike Tomlin’s press conference as he prepared himself to ask the Steelers head coach about the rumors linking him to the USC coaching job.

But what could Benz do? It’s a reporter’s job to ask those types of questions. Truth be told, I was expecting Tomlin to give one of his laugh-filled answers while quickly squashing the rumors. I was anticipating answers like “elevator music” and “white noise.”

But when I read Tomlin’s response on social media—“Hey guys, I don’t have time for speculation. That’s a joke to me. I have one of the best jobs in professional sports. Why would I have any interest in coaching college football? And that will be the last time I address it. Never say never, but NEVER. There isn’t a booster with a big enough blank check. Is anyone asking Sean Payton about that? Anybody asking Andy Reid about that?”—I was like, damn! It really fired me up. I think it was the “blank check” part that did it for me—it kind of reminded me of the heated exchange between Lisa’s father and King Jaffe Joffer in Coming to America.

Everywhere I went on Tuesday, people were talking about Tomlin’s reaction to the USC rumors. My brother even texted me during my evening run and said, “Did you see how Tomlin gave it to the reporters when they asked him if he was going to go coach college?” I said, “I didn’t see it, but I read about it. That’s my coach!” Then, my brother said, “No, you have to go check out his response. Trust me.”

I did on Wednesday morning, and wow! I’m even more fired up. Tomlin’s emotions were so raw and out on his sleeve. In all honesty, I don’t know why he was so peeved off about the rumor. I mean, I’d take it as a compliment if my name was linked to a prestigious college (maybe even two) with huge financial resources, but I guess Tomlin didn’t see it that way...for some reason. To quote Chandler from Friends while discussing Ross’ love life: “Oh no! Two women love me! They’re both gorgeous and sexy! My wallet’s too small for my fifties, and my diamond shoes are too tight!”

To repeat, I’m not sure why Tomlin was so riled up about the college speculation, but I’m glad he was. That response got me more fired up than Miles Killebrew’s blocked punt in Week 1 or James Pierre’s end zone interception in Week 5.

Maybe Tomlin was so mad because of how ridiculous the rumor was. There certainly isn't any fire to the rumor or even any smoke.

Even if it were true, why would any successful NFL head coach want to do that job at the college level--even at a prestigious university with unlimited resources? For more money? Maybe. For a different challenge? I hope so because it sure would be a completely different challenge than the pro game.

As a head coach at the pro level, you can mostly drown out the fans and their constant criticisms of your performance. If some Steelers fan calls you Dumblin on a regular case, well, he or she is likely an idiot who doesn’t deserve your attention. I know Steelers fans like to think they have sway because of the whole ticket-buying thing, but they really don’t. At the college level, however, lots of the fans tend to be boosters and alumni with blank checks who have influence over the program.

If they make enough noise, it could eventually alter a coach’s job status.

And what about recruiting? At the NFL level, the draft prevents the very best prospects from being able to choose where they’ll work. A college coach, even one with a big-time name who comes from a big-time program, must sell himself and his program to high school kids all year-round. He’s got to travel to their homes and talk to their parents. He’s got to kiss butt and make promises.

Who wants to do that if they’re good enough to coach at the professional level?

Tomlin said a lot of truisms when responding to the USC rumor on Tuesday, but the most accurate thing he said was that was a joke.

Why would Mike Tomlin want to coach anywhere but in Pittsburgh for the Steelers?

That’s my coach.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a brick wall I must run through.