The Pittsburgh Steelers were in the midst of playing the Buffalo Bills in the very hot and humid upstate “city” of Orchard Park, NY just a snowball’s throw away from the beautiful winter wonderland city of Buffalo. What makes this city/ski resort unique is that on many occasions during the winter months the citizens have to use skis and snowshoes not just for pleasure but just to get to work and to carry-out other essential duties such as shopping for food and water, etc.
According to legend, Buffalo, formerly known as Buffalo Creek, received its name from the creek or “crik” (as Pittsburghers’ would call it) that flows through it. However, the origin of the creek’s name is unclear leaving several myths flying around. Early French explorers reported the abundance of buffalo on the south shore of Lake Erie, but their presence on the banks of Buffalo Creek is still a matter of debate. Early Super Bowl scouts reported the existence of a team that would be considered a very elite team because of four Super Bowl appearances yet have no Lombardi Trophy’s to show for it. Even so even the team from the city by the “crik” deserves some r-e-s-p-e-c-t.
Now while we are on the subject of respect, there was not a lot of this intangible “positive” quality “vibe” flowing forth from Steelers “elite” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger toward the “keepers of the playbook” patrolling the coaches press box and sidelines. Roethlisberger was less than jubilant in regards to the “carrier pigeon” type of communication that was used to send a play in to him. As a result the Black and Gold had 12 men on the field and were subsequently penalized for the miscue placing the rock on the Pittsburgh one yard line. Shortly after the penalty was called, Big Ben was “swollen” and began gesturing over at the Steelers bench. Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin did not appear to be in a partying mood after the gaffe deep in the Steelers end as well but seemed to understand the frustration of his quarterback. Tomlin said afterward, “I’ve been looking at Ben going on six years now, I’m not surprised by it.” By what, Roethlisberger’s juvenile display of emotion?
Boys and girls on how many occasions have we witnessed “Big” Ben call a not so cerebral time out because of a lack of understanding the situation at hand; either leaving the Steelers with not enough time for a victory rally or providing their opponent more than ample time to start and complete a victory rally of their own? If Mike Tomlin had been as visual displaying his displeasure with Roethlisberger after one of his many blunders, let’s just say he might be exiled from the sidelines of the NFL and coaching the new European football powerhouse the “Siberian Huskies” in some unknown region of the Ukraine.
You cannot publicly on national television call out your teammates, coaches or management if they occasionally make a mistake because it does not set a very good precedent. When you are in a leadership position you must always remember, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
May I call your attention to a similar but much more important game? The Steelers were at the Indy Colts playing in the 2005 playoffs. The Colts faced a fourth and short. Indy Head Coach Tony Dungy had the Colts punting team poised to take the field when his star quarterback Peyton Manning broke the huddle and waved the punt team back to the sidelines. The Colts were successful on their attempt but if Manning had failed, Dungy would have shouldered all of the blame. But as fate would have it Manning succeeded and gathered all of the glory, well at least until the Colts were eventually defeated.
Coaches are supposed to coach and players are supposed to play. When that ceases to be true, the patients may be poised to take over the asylum. Was it Aretha Franklin in her fine days sang; “What you want, baby I got it. What you need, you know I got. All I ask you is for a little respect.” Not a huge amount, not a lot but just a little bit of respect.
Respect is not given it is earned. Mike Tomlin has earned my respect. I did not freely give it. I have watched him be vilified in regards to small decisions that he has made, while simultaneously viewing other coaches being handed the keys to new cars for accomplishing significantly less. Coach Tomlin is often accused of conducting press conferences that a few media types may consider a bit forced. I suspect he does most of his talking in the film room. As the late Don Cornelius might say; peace, love and so…….ul, later.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741. Bruce can also be heard on the ‘Odd Couple Sports Show’ where he is the AFC North and NFL analyst. The show is hosted by Adam Ragle on WCWA Fox Sports Toledo 1230AM, on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. during the preseason and on Wednesdays at 10 a.m. during the regular season.)