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Mike Tomlin outlines what he means by wanting “goons” on the field

The Pittsburgh Steelers head coach wants “goons” but what does that even mean?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

When you look up the definition of the word good, it comes with two standard definitions:

  • a stupid, foolish, or eccentric person.
  • a violent, aggressive person who is hired to intimidate or harm people.

Taking these definitions and applying them to the game of football is certainly a challenge in many ways.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, the term has been used frequently since the 2023 NFL Draft concluded and 2nd Round pick Keeanu Benton told media how Mike Tomlin told him after he was selected he wanted goons on the field. Here’s the exact quote:

“Just talking to Coach Tomlin, the main thing I had taken away from that was that he wants goons out there and he wants somebody to come out there who’s not afraid to get their nose dirty and I feel like I am that best option for that guy.” said Benton.

Makes sense, and sounds a lot like the latter definition as outlined above. But isn’t it easy for a player to slip into the former definition? Tomlin joined SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio to talk with morning hosts Evan Cohen, Mike Babchik and Willie Colon, who played for Tomlin for five seasons in Pittsburgh, and was asked specifically about what he meant by wanting goons on the field.

“Hey, a better person to define goon is sitting there with you (referring to co-host Willie Colon).

“You know, that guy really shaped my perspective on what appropriate gooning is. And to be bluntly honest, man, this dude played with an edge, he could be characterized as a mean person on the football field, but always in control, always calculated, always smart. And I think that’s the gist of what I’m talking about.

“We have to play with a certain collective demeanor. But we also have to play and play to win. And that means not beating yourself. And so that means bringing a certain level of intellect to the physicality. And that’s something that Willie mastered. You guys know he’s a sharp guy, he conducts business with you guys every day and does it at a very high level, man. But to be able to do those things and play the game with a certain edge, with a certain demeanor, is things that we cover.”

The Steelers bringing a bit of that edge to their game would certainly be a welcome sight for fans of the organization; however, it’s a fine line between gooning and attracting the attention of the officials in a negative way.

When you look at the additions the team has made throughout free agency and the draft, it is safe to say they wanted that edge back on the roster for 2023 and beyond. Whether they can walk that fine line between having an edge and being highly penalized will be something to keep an eye on throughout the regular season.

In the meantime, be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the 2023 NFL offseason.