PITTSBURGH (AP) Mike Tomlin didn’t like it when the NFL was criticizing his players. Apparently, he doesn’t like it any better now that the league is praising them.
Ray Anderson, the NFL vice president for football operations, applauded Steelers linebacker James Harrison for “heeding our emphasis” by avoiding a dangerous hit Sunday in Miami like the one on Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi the week before. Harrison was fined $75,000 for the Massaquoi hit, although he wasn’t penalized on the play.
“There certainly was one play, on a hit on a running back, that James Harrison may have taken a shot at the running back going down, and Harrison let up,” Anderson said. “I applaud James for restraining himself.”
Tomlin insisted last week that Harrison’s hit was permissible under NFL rules, and Steelers President Art Rooney II agreed. Now, Tomlin appears unhappy that anyone in the league is suggesting the Steelers (5-1) softened their physical style of play during the 23-22 victory in Miami.
Tomlin said there was no such “letting up.”
“I didn’t see anything of that nature,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “If I appear short, it’s because it’s somewhat insulting to me to assume that we’re doing anything under any normal circumstances other than trying to play within the rules. That how our guys play, that’s how we coach. Number one, first and foremost, is it conducive to winning? That’s what our intentions are when we step into stadiums to play, whether it’s last weekend of three weeks ago or a month ago. Or a month from now.”
As for Anderson’s praise, Tomlin said, “It would be tough for me to care less about their opinion, to be honest with you.”
Despite Tomlin’s insistence the Steelers didn’t play with less physicality, Harrison said after the game he once avoided slamming into running back Ronnie Brown because he felt he might violate the NFL’s toughened stance on dangerous hits to the head and neck. Larry Foote made the tackle on the play.
While Tomlin doesn’t want his team playing any different from it did before, he said safer play would result from officials blowing their whistles sooner, thus lessening the possibility of unnecessary hits. Tomlin made the comment when asked if his players are taught to play beyond the whistle.
“Well, you let me know when you hear a whistle,” Tomlin said. “That’s one of my contentions. There’s been a de-emphasis on the whistle, as far as I’m concerned, in the National Football League – and I don’t agree with it. We talk about player safety, yet we don’t blow whistles at the end of football plays. So that’s kind of a misnomer when you’re talking about the whistle. What we want to do is play until the action ceases.”
The Steelers apparently benefited from an on-time whistle Sunday. With less than 3 minutes remaining, Ben Roethlisberger’s touchdown run was negated upon video review because he fumbled before crossing the goal line. The Steelers kept the ball because the review didn’t show conclusively which team recovered the fumble, and they went on to kick a game-winning field goal.
A whistle blew after head linesman Jerry Bergman ruled a touchdown, so the officials didn’t sort out which team recovered the fumble.