There is a famous scene in the movie Bull Durham where Kevin Costner’s character Crash Davis is teaching young flame thrower “Nuke” LaLoosh about how to respond to media when asked questions. In other words, he is teaching him how to give those stock answers which won’t give the media anything to run with in regards to stories.
While many might watch this scene and think it might be just for comedic relief, you see in athletics how this is standard practice. Media ask the questions, athletes and coaches provide the answer without saying anything even remotely controversial.
When it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers, their leader, head coach Mike Tomlin, is a wordsmith. A master at saying everything, while saying nothing at all. This approach trickles down to the players, and former players like Ben Roethlisberger had mastered analyzing what the intended question is searching for, and not providing the ammunition needed.
With Roethlisberger gone, Mitch Trubisky has been the man in the crosshairs of the media, and his manipulation with questions has been as questionable as some of his decision making. Following the Steelers’ Week 2 loss to the New England Patriots, when Trubisky was asked about utilizing the middle of the field, his answer was how they, which everyone assumed was the play caller, needs to call plays to put players in the middle of the field.
As an outlet ran with the quote, you’d think there would have been a lesson learned. That’s questionable.
On Tuesday, Tomlin talked about the “noise” surrounding the team, and he was talking about the questions from the media.
When you were talking about the offense and the improvement, you said “We’ll continue to tune out the noise.” What’s the noise?
“Questions from you guys, which I anticipated, and that’s why I wanted to display the resolve that I want our team to display.” Tomlin said.
Wednesday, Trubisky was again in front of the microphones, and he was asked about the play-calling. Here was the exact question:
You mentioned Matt calling the game and you mentioned noise. There’s a lot of noise that the offense isn’t happy with how Matt’s calling games. Is that accurate?
It is at this point where you expect that stock answer. Think about how someone like Tomlin would answer a question like this. But Trubisky, who is staying true to the way he handles questions like these, gives the following answer:
“I think that’s going to happen when you’re not scoring as many points as people think you should.” Trubisky said, ultimately eluding to the offense being unhappy with Canada’s play calling.
“But we went back and looked at the film, we talked through it as an offense and as players and as the coaches. The plays are on film. Before you start pointing fingers, you’ve got to look at yourself and see what you can do better. For me, it’s getting the ball to the playmakers, being on time, being good with my footwork and those types of things. And everybody else can do that at their position. The plays are on film, and if we make more plays, then it looks better. It looks better on film, and we score more points. So, we’ve just got to focus on doing our job, being detailed in our work, pulling together as a unit and having each other’s back.”
Ultimately, this response is not horrendous, but also unnecessary. When the team is 1-2, and struggling to do anything positive on offense, giving the media any answer which could increase the aforementioned “noise” is a bad decision.
However, not all of Trubisky’s comments were slanted and left open to interpretation. Here were his comments on the improving offensive line.
“They’re getting better each week.” said Trubisky. “They’re continuing to take steps and that gives me a lot of confidence back there. So, we’ve got to continue to get better at every position group and the offensive line has done a great job. I think their chemistry has really shown and their communication upfront. They’ve taken steps week after week and they’re going to be the heart and soul of our team. You love to see that as a quarterback and just as an offense in general.”
Trubisky’s comments on what the approach of the offense is heading into Week 4.
“Let’s go. Let’s pick up on the details. Let’s continue to stay motivated. And we’re closer. We’re closer. We’re not where we want to be, but we’ve got to continue to put in the work, continue to be detailed and just continue to pull together, and hopefully we’ll get better results than what we’ve had.”
Some will call this nit-picking, and that’s understandable; however, there is also a facet to this equation where Trubisky isn’t helping himself. He has to see the position he is in, with a first-round pick waiting in the wings, and the immense media and fan scrutiny he is seeing through three weeks of the regular season. Whether such scrutiny is warranted isn’t the issue. The issue is not giving those people fodder for which to feed.
Trubisky’s comments, all of them including the comment after the Week 2 loss, have been more innocent than anything else, but you do have to wonder if/when someone speaks to Trubisky about helping himself. Don’t leave these things up for interpretation. Give the stock answer and live a week without everyone looking over quotes with a fine-toothed comb.
As an example, look at offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Canada dials up answers like a seasoned pro, never divulging anything and leaving the media both befuddled and frustrated.
If Trubisky’s on-field play improves, it will ease the scrutiny for both the quarterback and play caller in the short term. If his play continues to struggle, there is a strong chance those microphones will be in another signal callers face sooner, rather than later.
Be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the New York Jets in Week 4 of the regular season.