Tomlin bristles at “players’ coach” label

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Before Sunday’s bizarre loss at home to the Buccaneers, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin appeared on the FOX pregame show via a previously recorded interview with Laura Okmin.

During the exchange, Okmin raised the perception that Tomlin is a “players’ coach.”  Tomlin seemed to have a problem with that label, even though plenty of successful coaches have been described that way in past years.

“That is the first I ever heard if it,” Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said on Monday’s PFT Live.  “He also mentioned young coach too, that kind of took that as a not an insult, but he wasn’t real happy with people calling him a players’ coach because he thought it was a little racist and because he was a young coach.  There were times Bill Cowher was considered a players’ coach here, and I never thought of it as being a bad thing.  Maybe he takes it as such, maybe he thinks people believe he’s coddling the players, which is not the case, I don’t think, any more than Bill Cowher coddled players.  I was a little surprised by that.”

To make his point, Tomlin said the defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau could be called a “players’ coach,” too, but that he isn’t because LeBeau is an “old white guy.”

All told, it was an odd moment from a coach who has been with the Steelers since 2007, who has been to the Super Bowl twice, and who won a Super Bowl in only his second year on the job.  Players’ coach or not, Tomlin has been successful.  And that’s all that matters.

101 responses to “Tomlin bristles at “players’ coach” label

  1. Tomlin is turning it into a race issue. Enough with the race card.

    Learn to discipline your players and hold them accountable for their actions.

    Yesterday’s game was ridiculous.. just like the losses to bad Raider and Brown teams over the years.

    Get ready as Blake Bortles is a decent QB who can make things happen for the Jaguars this week.

  2. When you don’t have an intelligent answer to a question the race card is always a perfect fall back technique. There are very few things more satisfying than seeing a Steelers coach squirm, especially a coach that won the superbowl with a previous coaches players. Steelers are lucky to have Roethlisberger, without him they might win 2-3 games a year.

  3. I really like Tomlin and wanted him as the Vikings Coach before the Steelers grabbed him, but the Super Bowl team he won with was already setup for him.

    I don’t fully understand his comments. I get them on one hand and the other is he is just making excuses for the current state of the team.

  4. Yesterday’s game was ridiculous.. just like the losses to bad Raider and “Brown teams” over the years.


    that’s racist.

  5. Can you imagine the uproar if a white HC referred to a black coordinator as a old black guy?

    Tomlin needs to go, for MANY reasons.

  6. yeah.. well…. how many seasons since a ‘winning season’ ?

    How MANY times do they ‘dumb down’ to losing teams ?

    I hold the coaches responsible for NOT having the ‘team’ ready !

    Last year 0-4, and we lose from the very FIRST play with Tampa… we have greatness in Bell and Blount, but we hand off to Johnson ? And he is pump fisting his offense line later in the game… I don’t need a cheerleader for a coach I need a ‘Coach”.

    Die hard Steeler fan, time for him to move up to the Studio

  7. I am far from a Steeler’s fan and don’t read their every little interview or quote, but he seems far from a “players” coach…he seems kind of harsh, tow the line type of coach.

    Another thing….I don’t care who their owner is, I absolutely believe that the Steelers are NOT one of Goodell’s favorite teams, not by a long shot.

  8. Tomlin bristles at “players’ coach” label

    Why bring up a fictitious racial element. If you often see things from a racial perspective then you are usually a racist to a certain degree. That said, he is deflecting here because he can’t provide one of those seemingly hard-core type answers.

  9. Did he do that thing where he makes his eyes really big? You know he’s being totally direct and serious when he makes his eyes all big and wide like that.

  10. Pretty weak tying the term “Player’s Coach” to race, especially since the term has been in play for a lot longer than there have been minority head coaches in the NFL.

    Someone needs to remind Mike that when you cry racism when it clearly isn’t so you only hurt the people that are facing persecution because of race.

  11. Turning this racist? Really? Sharpton and Jackson will be defending him next. Good god. I’ve heard it all now. Oh and please remember Tomlin won a Super Bowl with Cowher’s team. Now that Tomlin’s roots are firmly intact there, you see how they’re doing? Hmmm

  12. Mr. Tomlin , what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  13. When there is defensive posturing, there is usually some truth behind it. Bell gets an unsportsmanlike penalty then gets to go right back in the huddle. Tomlin had an opportunity there to send a message, but he left him in instead of replacing him with Blount for at least the rest of the series. Steelers players acted like a bunch of fools yesterday and that falls directly on the coach’s shoulders, period. Embarassing bunch of fools. Act like you’ve been there before! Do what Heath Miller does when he scores and learn.

  14. First of all, we were just talking about this in the other Steelers post, it was a pretty popular opinion. Does Tomlin read PFT?! If so, I hope he at least tries to prove us wrong. We’ll certainly know by what we see on the field next game.

    Second of all, regardless of whether Tomlin is right about his opinion, the most racist people are the ones who claim you can’t ever bring race up. I don’t care who you are, that’s what I think. Is anyone really so ignorant that believe there is no racism left in the United States? Anyone of any political persuasion who makes that claim is either ignorantly racist or morally racist.

  15. They should fire Tomlin for making racist comments and make Haley the HC. That would insure their place in the AFCN basement for decades.

  16. What is going to be racial is when the Rooneys refuse to fire him because of the Rooney Rule. Tomlin sucks as a coach whether he is white, black, or purple. Typical way to pull race into something that has nothing to do do with it.

  17. davebarnes21 says:
    Sep 29, 2014 3:10 PM
    how about these articles focusing on FOOTBALL and leaving garbage like this somewhere else???????????

    I swear PFT gets worse every year.


    I used to say that PFT was the TMZ of the NFL, but that is giving a reputable organization like TMZ a bad name.

  18. Tomlin is top-notch and is getting unnecessary blame. Really, he’s taking a fall for the league, which we are sharply disappointed by. If you have to take a fine for the truth to come out, do it. Steeler Nation will pitch in to cover it. The people deserve to know.

    It’s obvious the every Sunday the Steelers have to play a second opponent: the refs. It shows in every game and it simply isn’t the same with other teams. The league knows that if we win the Super Bowl, we are leaving for the SFL, and that’s bad for business on their end. They will do everything to prevent that. They will fail. We must to a better job of defeating the refs and we will. We promise.

    Aaaand we March.

  19. Cowher’s like Benito Mussolini…..yeah, he wasn’t that bad. He made the trains run on time.

    Or Bill Clinton, who seems like a rock star now, but who was impeached by the House.

    People have conveniently forgotten all those AFC Championship games, lost at home under Cowher.

    As for Tomlin winning with Cowher’s players, what does that mean? He’s not a college coach recruiting. There’s a GM and scouts who deliver the players.

  20. davebarnes21 says:
    Sep 29, 2014 3:10 PM
    how about these articles focusing on FOOTBALL and leaving garbage like this somewhere else???????????

    I swear PFT gets worse every year

    Welcome to the TMZ Generation

  21. The only “race” issue Tomlin needs to be concerned about is the race to last place. His team, especially that “old white guy’s” defense was exposed yesterday.
    What a pathetic excuse “race” is for anyone involved with the NFL today. Get real Tomlin.

  22. I always took Tomlin to be someone who could look through the surface distractions and excuses and look at the real substantial issues underneath – an old-school Ditka type who would call out BS when he saw it. I viewed Tomlin as the kind of man who valued real character, substance and accountability. This is how he’s always projected himself, anyway.

    But that interview showed me the exact opposite: a bitter, thin-skinned, quick-tempered, defensive, excuse-making, blaming, petty, finger-pointing, victim-stancing excuse-artist.

    I’ve lost all respect for the “man”.

  23. Wrong! It’s not all that matters.

    Perception is the reality, same as with Jim Harbaugh, who has brought nothing but success with him.

    Tomlim is only popular because of his media demeanor, his in-game decision making is atrocious.

    The Steelers represent a fan base full of deadbeats and life losers.

  24. i haven’t been like a lot of steelers fans here in Pittsburgh, calling for tomlins head. but I gotta say hearing his comments and the last 6 years of just flat out bad draft picks which him and Colbert are directly responsible for I am personally on the fire tomlin bandwagon. he doesn’t have this team prepared to play and he is very much buddy buddy with the players. if youre a buddy buddy coach your players will not fear you and will do whatever they want. and that is what we are seeing. if I see Antonio brown do another stupid dance and on defense these guys celebrate when the receiver drops the ball, not that our defender even broke it up.. they dance and celebrate like they made a great play. sad to say but my team has become a punchline. we have officially become the nail, we are no longer the hammer! and that starts and ends with tomlin. don’t listen to ed bouchette. this will be tomlins last year! undisciplined, unprepared and underwhelming. that has been the story of my beloved Pittsburgh steelers…#timeforachange

  25. The Steelers are Marching. 7 rings. SFL 2015: restoring the game we created. says:
    Sep 29, 2014 3:17 PM
    Tomlin is top-notch and is getting unnecessary blame. Really, he’s taking a fall for the league, which we are sharply disappointed by. If you have to take a fine for the truth to come out, do it. Steeler Nation will pitch in to cover it. The people deserve to know.

    It’s obvious the every Sunday the Steelers have to play a second opponent: the refs. It shows in every game and it simply isn’t the same with other teams. The league knows that if we win the Super Bowl, we are leaving for the SFL, and that’s bad for business on their end. They will do everything to prevent that. They will fail. We must to a better job of defeating the refs and we will. We promise.

    Aaaand we March.


    thepftpoet makes more sense than this troll

  26. @clashpoint

    Uh, can you read? No one here is saying you can “never bring racism up” or that it doesn’t exist. People are rightfully calling out Tomlinson for playing the race card out of pure paranoia versus something of substance. Former Texan HC and current Raven OC Gary Kubiak has long held the reputation of a player’s coach. However he is as white as they come in terms of the hilarious “aw shucks” trailer park stereotype. Move along toolbag.

  27. I think most Seahawk fans and non-fans would characterize Pete Carrol as a “players coach” as well.

    Seems to be working fine for him, Coach Tomlin.

  28. “The Steelers represent a fan base full of deadbeats and life losers”


    Nice generalization d-bag. I’m sure your fanbase and team are all pillars of society.

  29. I’m sure I would be one of the very few that say, as a longtime Vikings fan (since 1976), I did not want him as the HC. I think he is extremely overrated. He was able to get the job because he interviewed very well. Let’s be honest, he can talk a great game. Anyway, I believe he won with the previous HC’s team. None of the other coaches changed so all he had to do was keep it the same. I have a neighbor here in PA who is a huge steelers fan. I told him maybe 8-8 at best, but Tomlin will not get it done anytime soon.

  30. stillers213 says: Sep 29, 2014 3:30 PM

    “The Steelers represent a fan base full of deadbeats and life losers”

    Nice generalization d-bag. I’m sure your fanbase and team are all pillars of society.

    I don’t agree with the original comment and hate generalizations but I would like to point out that a few weeks ago plenty of Steeler fans were calling out the entire Ravens fan base, based on the acts of a few fans, during the Rice saga.

  31. All the Tomlin Super Bowl stuff is getting farther and farther in the rearview mirror.

    He will not even win another playoff game. Is it racist to say he got Tebowed? Sexist?

  32. He partied/crashed a rental car with Lane Kiffin, who is one of the worst people ever. Tomlin should be suspended.

  33. Yesterdays game was an embarrassment for the steelers and its fans. The game should have been an easy win for Pittsburgh. This team can beat anyone. Problem is they can lose to anyone(same ol same ol). The offense is going to have to continuously put up points for the steelers to get in the playoffs and make some noise. The defense is just way to inconsistent and the secondary and pass rush is not getting it done. Gay is not a cb, Allen isnt getting it done. Nobody in the secondary for that matter. Oh and Haley might want to consider throwing a pass on 3rd and 5 with the a chance to clinch the game instead of handing it off. Thats poor coaching. The drops can be corrected.

  34. I’m sure Brian Billick would have loved to be a players coach. But no players wanted to ride around and get high with him.

  35. lol tomlin…instead of players coach i was thinking awful coach…

    must be nice to use the race card….classic jesse and al and eric holder move…

    wake up rooney’s, u have an elite qb, elite wr, elite rb, improving o line and a mental midget as head coach..

    fire the bum

  36. Also, it’s not like he went on a tirade about race. He was upset and probably said a couple things he knows he shouldn’t have. Let’s not overreact either.

  37. it has nothing to do with race..
    could it be- the team is on a record pace for penalties ??
    could it be- 18-18 last 36
    could it be- losing to Titans, Raiders twice, now Tampa..
    could it be- he is just not that good of a head coach??

  38. There are a large number of Steelers fans who have never gotten over the fact that Tomlin was hired using the Rooney Rule. They have been waiting since that day for him to be fired so they can say, “See, I told you so.” These comments are going to send them in to orbit. The rest of us could care less.

  39. Coach Tomlin doesn’t like that label. Ok. Move on. Leave him alone. Its not a big deal. He thinks he’s too young to be labeled as a players coach. He believes that the label players coach will come at time when he realizes that he’s old enough to be a father to these players. Right now hes old enough to be a bigger brother Not an old man.

  40. Steeler Nation thinks they know football – and the vast majority are enraged at Tomlin.

    Morons. You spoiled unjustifiably smug clowns are the same idiots that rioted with pitchforks over Bruce Arians 4 or 5 years ago.

  41. He is playing the race card!?!?! After the ONLY reason he was hired was due to the “Rooney Rule”.

    This guy has got to go…..I think if the Steelers offer enough money, Cowher would GLADLY return.

  42. Poor choice of words from Tomlin for sure, but many of the fans who call for his head each and every week, do so because they are the ones who are racist. I mean, they blame Tomlin for the poor draft choices too, like he is the GM. They’ll never accept him unless he wins the Super Bowl every year, and even then, many will still want him fired due to the color of his skin!

  43. I like Tomlin. If the steelers make the playoffs,
    (hope not). It will be because they have a great coach.

  44. I don’t care what kind of coach he is as long as he is good at getting the team to play. He’s not. I don’t care about early success. Tomlin’s early success was with mostly Cowher’s team. It was set up pretty good for Tomlin. Colbert hasn’t been very good at drafting since Cowher left. Coincidence? I think not. Don’t believe me, look for yourself.

    Tomlin shouldn’t be doing chest bumps and high fiving players on the sideline for routine plays. Is that the standard he talks about? Do your job good sometimes and get praise. The team has been undisciplined for years: pre-snap penalties, after the play penalties, can’t hold a lead, can’t close out a game out, not showing up for whole halves at a time, etc. Tomlin’s master plan to fix this? get rid of ping pong in the locker room. Haha…he couldn’t even do that right. First he took it away from players with 0-4 years experience b/c they were playing bad (the guys he and Colbert have drafted). When they went 0-4 last year he took it away from all the players (rest of the over the hill players we had on our old and slow team)

    I read all these Steeler fans’ comments during the preseason and they think we will win 12-13 games and the super bowl. Delusional. I’ve been saying 6-10 if we stay healthy. The team has no pass rush, a horrible secondary and they get shredded by the run most times.

    I don’t know if Tomlin is a bad coach or if we have bad players. Either way, he’s involved. It’s time for Tomlin to go. LeBeau should go, too. The NFL has evolved into a pass happy league over the last 5 years. What does LeBeau think he needs? a fast ILB. we don’t need corners, just a fast ILB will fix it so grey haired Troy can do what he does best, which is lately take bad angles and not make plays like he used to but get paid like he used to.

    I love the Steelers, but i’m also not crazy like most Steeler fans and realize this team and HC and DC is horrible. How many 8-8 or worse seasons until Tomlin get’s fired. until LeBeau gets canned? If it wasn’t for BR and AB this team wouldn’t win 4 games.

  45. Players Coach means someone the players like and can coexist with in a conducive fashion. Take a look at Vince Lombardi for that. He was able to commons the respect of his players while still being sensitive to their needs.

    To me, Tomlin got the right gig at the right time. Team morale has vanished since sidelinegate.

  46. Bill Walsh was a “players coach”. If his team played bad he would just come out and say it. I’m pretty sure he never said its because the black players don’t like me. Leaders find ways to lead and whiners find ways to whine and but blame elsewhere. I live in the middle of Steeler Country and just let me say that Tomlin has finally run out of Cowher’s coat tails. (BTW: My team sucks the most/from top to bottom)

  47. Tomlin is grasping at straws. Using the race issue when the only issue that needs to be addressed is his ineptness. Losing to the Raiders, losing to the Bucs, losing to the Titans…all bottom feeder teams over the last three years. And his teams do it over and over again.

    Also..the Steelers are an undisciplined team with a lot of penalties every game. Tomlin is an excuse maker who’s ran out of excuses. The bottom line is that the Steelers are not getting better under him. Tomlin and LeBeau need to be let go at the end of the season.

  48. Maybe someone should tell him that Pete Carroll is also considered a “players coach” and he is a 63yr old white guy. Grow up Mike Tomlin.

  49. I would take that as a compliment. A young guy who gets along well with the players…and if I had a winning record like Tomlin does and someone said that to me. I’d tink, heck yeah, I’m a players coach. Laughing all the way to the bank too.

    Better get that alligator skin off his back.

  50. Tomlin is finally being exposed, and has reached an all time low by pulling out the race card. He was only successful when he had two real coaches Arians + Lebeau, and he didn’t have to do more than be the “Rooney Rule” token puppet coach. Now since Haley is OC, and Tomlin has to actually coach, the team has 2 going on 3 consecutive non-playoff appearances. Look for him to get the axe, or let Haley fall on the sword after another disappointing season this year. Will be fun to watch the implosion unfold.

  51. “Players coach?!!? Don’t you hear me talk? I’m a tough guy! Don’t you believe me? You must be racist! Right Mr. Rooney?”….It’s all slipping away…..

  52. If your players are comfortable reporting to a team flight with glassy eyes and reeking of pot…You might be a player’s coach.

  53. With respect to race, Mr. Tomlin needs to look within. There was no need to drag Mr. Lebeau into the discussion; and that old white guy comment is out of bounds. I’ve lost respect for the coach on this one. He’s a head coach in the NFL for gosh sakes, leave the Jackson, Rangel, and Sharpton behaviors and mind set behind.

  54. How convenient for so many of you that you don’t have to be concerned with underlying statements. The media does make obvious and underlying statements all the time. It is rare to hear a White coach considered a players coach. It is much more common to hear it used when a Black coach is the head coach. Same thing when you hear the announcers talk about a player being “hard working and blue collar type of guy” is almost always a White guy. That term is rarely ever used for Black athletes. Black athletes are demeaned most times by the media as just being athletically gifted but not being hard workers or smart.

    To prove a point to many of you, when was the last time you heard of an unarmed White guy being killed by the police? Is it just Black people being overly sensitive or calling some small attention to what Black people(especially men) have to deal with?

    And for those ignorant Steeler fans who don’t like Tomlin. It took Cowher over 10 years to win a SB, with some bad calls. Sure that roster was set but Tomlin got it done. Do lose him and watch him be successful in a short period of time somewhere else, fortunately for you Steeler management is much brighter than you all are.

  55. Please enough of this guy. Our team is undisciplined and frankly never makes 2nd half adjustments. Let him go now and hire a real coach. That’s he’s now playing the race card is gross.

  56. He is the reason they are losing. The talent is there but he can’t put them together as a team. His early success was due largely to the left over imprint of Cowher. He is practicing age/ racism. I am an old white guy but you would consider me a players coach. I can even rap.

  57. Finaly people are starting to see what alot of us have been saying for a LOOOOONG time,TOMLIN SUCKS! PERIOD! And with his comment you just saw why we have been terrible at drafting! Thanks for proving my point Mike!

  58. I hope the Steelers brass realizes that Tomlin is the issue here and parts ways with him sooner rather than later. Also, love Lebeau but am thinking it’s time for him to go as well if he can’t tweak his system to get better results (no pass rush whatsoever). I am one of the few folks that feels Haley will help Ben and the offense over the long run and am fine with him staying. 1/4 of the way in this long race, hoping that the rest of the year is better…..but not holding my breath. Go Stillers!

  59. Look here Steeler Nation, Tomlin needs to get control of the team. Cut out the dancing in the end zone. He needs to look at his defense and say we are not that good and turn loose the offense to score points at will. Now we all know Haley was not pick by Tomlin it was the Rooney family who force that move. I don’t hear anyone talking about that. Our draft has been horriable for the last few years. Maybe it’s time for a new GM, I love our DC but his time has pass. We need a younger mind to plan our defense. As far as the race card people grow up as long as we be an American countrypeople will where their feelings on their sleeves. We all need to be fans and support our team. Every team goes thru this at some point and time look at San Fran. how long it took them to get back at the top. We are just spoil and use to going to the playoffs. Our time will come again wither its with the current coachs or not

  60. Talent wise, the Steelers are in a transitional year, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Bucs D is better than Pits, as are many other teams. I know, it’s Tomlin’s fault that their Super Bowl teams all got old at the same time, especially on the defensive side. You guys are clueless and at times make me embarrassed to even be a Pit fan. You are the same morons who were calling for Cowher’s head each and every year until they finally won the Super Bowl. CLUELESS!!

  61. so if you take over an 8-8 team and win the SB with them TWO years later, you’re winning it with the other guy’s roster and he should get all the credit???

    so by extension (and using the same logic), we should fire tomlin now, and if that replacement wins a superbowl within 2 years, we will look back and say how awesome tomlin is and give him all the credit for the team’s construction right???? do you people listen to yourselves?

    and of course he must be crazy and delusional about the dynamics of racism. how in the world would he know about racism or the more subtle ways that it occurs in our world? after all, we do have a black president, so racism must be over right????

  62. Your comment only makes sense if the team wins with the same players Tomlin had in place already! The problem with your logic is,The players that were on that superbowl winning team,were ALL drafted during Cowhers term as head coach! Now if a New coach comes in and has a few good drafts and the players he drafts are the ones taking over the starting jobs of Tomlins players then its not Tomlins team! The stupidity of your comment is ALL the players on that superbowl winning team were drafted under Cowher!! Ask yourself a 3rd grade math question, How many players have been drafted during the tomlin era + All the undrafted free agents – players still starting from the Cowher era = how many decent players Tomlin have drafted! And some of those even suck! Quit being in denial!

  63. i dont really care when they were drafted or who drafted them. i think it’s a stupid argument to make and you’re working against yourself. if tomlin is a bad coach, then why was he able to get BETTER results with those same players? again two years after cowher, and time enough to implement his own systems, etc. not to mention that they got back two years later (4 years removed from cowher’s time, in case two wasnt enough time to assert himself)

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