A team that has given plenty of concussions over the years via a hard-hitting defense has assumed a position of leadership regarding the NFL’s effort to promote concussion safety and awareness at all levels of the game.
The Steelers and UPMC have announced a program aimed at preventing concussions via safe play and proper tackling, along with proper concussion management.
“Don’t hit the head, don’t use the head” is the tag line. It comes from a saying that Tomlin uses with his Steelers.
“We are excited about this program and we hope that it will make youth football safer for our kids,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We want to make sure this commitment to safe play is a priority and I strongly believe that it will help educate football players while using a common theme for proper tackling.”
Dr. Micky Collins, clinical and executive director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program, said that Tomlin’s involvement is a major plus.
“This has the potential to be a very powerful campaign,” Dr. Collins said. “Coach Tomlin’s simple but profound words are crucial for kids to hear. Athletes have a conscious decision at the point of making a block or tackle. Not hitting the head and not using the head are attainable concepts in football. With the message coming directly from Coach Tomlin, whom football players everywhere idolize, I am hopeful that this campaign will help protect the safety and integrity of the game of football.”
There’s a certain irony in all of this, obviously. Apart from a bad habit in the recent past of not acknowledging when a player has a concussion, the Steelers currently boast one of the most intimidating players in all of sports, who has been repeatedly fined and ultimately suspended for using the head and/or hitting the head. Coupled with accounts from last year that hits from players like safety Ryan Clark that drew fines from the league office also drew praise in the film room makes us wonder how much of this is window dressing in an era of concussion litigation — and how much of it is genuine.
Hopefully, the Steelers will prove moving forward that their statements about protecting the head are more than lip service. After all, it’s not like they called the thing a “concussion-like symptom awareness program.”