On Tuesday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin appeared on Sirius NFL Radio with Adam Schein and Rich Gannon. And Schein asked Tomlin a straightforward question about the quarterback position as of the team’s fifth game, once starter Ben Roethlisberger returns from a four-game suspension.
Will Ben be the starter when he comes back?
Said Tomlin: “I’m going to dodge that one and not artfully. I’m not going to back myself in a corner.”
But Steelers beat writer Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, whom we like and respect, didn’t like (or presumably respect) the decision of the “national media” to repeat the words uttered from Tomlin’s mouth — and to believe that Tomlin meant what he said.
“I don’t know how this started,” Bouchette writes, “but the national media has taken a few
words uttered by Mike Tomlin and a few things he left unsaid and
twisted them into ‘fact’ that the Steelers coach may not play Ben
Roethlisberger when he returns from his suspension.”
Frankly, I don’t know why Bouchette thinks that the “national media” has applied an inappropriate or inaccurate meaning to Tomlin’s words. Schein asked Tomlin if Ben will be the starter when Ben comes back. Tomlin opted to not say “yes”. And if Tomlin wants to issue a statement clarifying his position on the matter, he’s free to do so at any time.
Bouchette also complicates the matter by suggesting that the “national media” misinterpreted a comment from Tomlin’s Tuesday press conference regarding whether Dennis Dixon will “have the opportunity to hold on to this spot during the four-week stretch.” Tomlin said, “It depends on how he plays. And that’s the nature of the NFL. I think
anybody who suggests anything different is misinformed or misleading
you.” Bouchette specifically believes that some in the “national media” took this to mean that Tomlin suggested Dixon could play even after the four-week stretch, if he plays well enough during the four-week stretch.
But here’s the thing — no one in the “national media” claimed directly or indirectly that Tomlin’s comment regarding Dixon’s ability to hold the job for the first four games also reflected a comment that Dixon could hold the job beyond the first four games. Instead, the “national media” was merely seizing upon the answer Tomlin supplied to a question from Adam Schein that Tomlin could have answered in any way he chose.
Though we rarely accept at face value the things that an NFL coach says when broader notions of strategy are involved, the words are in many cases are worthy of being reported. Tomlin’s answer to Schein’s question falls squarely into that category, and we’re not sure why anyone would say that Tomlin didn’t really mean what he said, absent a fairly compelling explanation as to why Tomlin would say on this subject something other than what he believes.