Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has coined a phrase that he has publicly used at least twice regarding players who no longer wanted to play in Pittsburgh.
“We can’t do this with hostages, man. We need volunteers,” Tomlin said in the most recent iteration of a saying he used in early November 2018 regarding the then-lingering holdout of running back Le'Veon Bell. Tuesday, the hostage/volunteer shtick emerged in connection with the departure of Bell via free agent and receiver Antonio Brown via trade.
It’s catchy, that’s for sure. But it has two huge flaws of logic.
First, as an executive with another team pointed out almost immediately after Tomlin used the hostages/volunteers line on Tuesday, does this mean the Steelers will no longer be drafting players? While NFL rookies are treated much better than hostages, they definitely aren’t volunteers. They don’t get to choose where the play, and their choices consist of playing for the team that drafted them or sit the year out.
Second, literal application of Tomlin’s comments means that any player under contract to the Steelers can escape his obligations merely by making it clear that he no longer is willing to volunteer. Which would mean that the Steelers did indeed set a dangerous precedent when giving Brown what he so clearly wanted.
The reality is that the Steelers won’t stop drafting rookies and they won’t start cutting veterans who no longer want to play for the team. Which makes Tomlin’s new catchphrase meaningless. Which means he probably needs a new catchphrase.