The Steelers manned-up on Sunday…too bad Mike Tomlin didn’t do the same thing

December 03, 2012 | Drew Forrester

Mike Tomlin owes John Harbaugh an apology.  Or, at the very least, an explanation.

More on that later.

I’ve championed John Harbaugh’s cause here in Baltimore because I think he’s a very good football coach.  His record, here, does all the speaking that needs to be done.  Coaches are paid to do one thing: win games.  John has done that since arriving in Baltimore in 2008.

That said, I have occasionally nitpicked at Harbaugh for things like an “unnecessary” fake field goal against the Raiders a month ago or the 2-pointer against the Steelers on opening day, 2011, when Baltimore was already pounding the Steelers but felt justified in having Sam Koch dash into the end zone on a fake extra-point to make a blow out even more of a blow out.  There was also the time-out at the end of a meaningless pre-season game against the Chiefs a couple of years ago…one that Todd Haley chirped about during the post-game greeting at midfield.

John Harbaugh has had a moment or two where I thought he was bordering on showing-up-the-other-team and I’ve never been afraid to make those assessments on the radio because I always take pride in calling it as I see it, even if that means being critical of my hometown football or baseball team.

That doesn’t mean I’ve been right in doing so, either.  In the days following the fake-field-goal-for-a-TD gainst the Raiders, I bought into John’s way of thinking, even though initially I said it looked bad to forego an easy field goal and tack on another four points “just because”.  In the end, Harbaugh was right when he said, “Look, if you’re going to basically set up your defense to give us a free run at a touchdown, we’re going to take it and that’s that.”  Truth?  He was right, even if it meant I had to change my stance on it from my original reaction on Sunday.

But, again, before some unsophisticated goof stumbles in here and starts blabbing about how I’m a homer and I’m just pissed the Ravens lost to the Steelers and all that other Who Struck John?, I’ll remind any and all of you that I simply call it like it is — and sometimes that means I’ve had to take issue with something our own coach has done.

Let’s get back to the Tomlin apology-thing I referenced in the opening sentence.

In his five years in Baltimore, John Harbaugh has never once pulled a bush-league stunt like Mike Tomlin produced on Sunday evening after his Steelers edged the Ravens in Baltimore, 23-20.

Coaches are, in my humble opinion, the most special people in all of sports.  I’ve said that for a long time now and the more I’m around them, the more I know I’m right.  We throw the word “elite” around all the time when we talk about quarterbacks in the NFL, but the truth of the matter is that there are six of them in the league right now who are of that caliber and the only way to earn that label is by winning a title.  It’s different for coaches.  NFL head coaches are all elite when you take into account their responsibility, work ethic and dedication to preparation.  All 32 men who run NFL teams are, literally, elite human beings.

Unlike the players, who shower, answer a text message or 23, and then head off to Washington DC to party after a home game, the men who coach in the NFL are bound to their job in a 24/7 fashion that I’m confident none of us – including me – could handle with the same grace and dignity.

And that includes Mike Tomlin, he of a Super Bowl ring and a massive amount of respect-appeal from around the NFL.

Mike Tomlin is one helluva football coach.  I’ve said and written that a lot over the last five years.

But he committed the most unprofessional of sins on Sunday when he disrespectfully brushed past Harbaugh at midfield as the losing coach stuck out his hand to offer well wishes.

Yes, Tomlin’s right hand connected with Harbaugh’s.

But his eyes didn’t.

For reasons only Mike Tomlin can explain, he eschewed the proper protocol on Sunday night and did his best to avoid any personal interaction with the Ravens coach as the two met at midfield.

Now would be the time for you to check out THE VIDEO OF THE HANDSHAKE for yourself, so you know exactly what transpired.

It was unprofessional.

Bush league.

And, honestly, surprising.

I expected more from Tomlin, truth be known.

Here’s what I know as fact:

Harbaugh has a great amount of professional respect for Mike Tomlin.  Without mailing him a Christmas card or anything sappy like that, the Ravens coach has admired the way Tomlin has kept the Steelers together this season with their depleted offensive line, a broken down running game and the loss of star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

That was going to be John’s brief post-game message to Mike Tomlin on Sunday night, win or lose.

Unfortunately for Harbaugh, he had to man-up as the losing coach.

John’s offering would be simple but a high compliment for his rival: “Hey, congratulations.  You’ve done one helluva job with your team, Mike.  Nicely done.  Good luck the rest of the way.”

Soup to nuts, it would have taken four seconds, five if you count the friendly pat on the rump as Tomlin turns to head to the locker room.

That’s what Harbaugh intended to say to Tomlin on Sunday.

(Please see next page)

17 Comments For This Post

  1. RJ Says:

    Well-stated, DF! You are spot on!

  2. joe of bel air Says:

    Who knows, maybe Harbaugh can return the favor a month from now when we beat them in the wild card game.

  3. Lisa, Aberdeen Says:

    I think I’ve lost a little respect for Tomlin as a coach. Um, there’s no thinking about it, I have lost some respect for him.

  4. PghSteve Says:

    Just to clarify, the Ravens did not have a 2 point conversion against the Raiders. Mr. Koch scored a TD on a fake field goal.

    Maybe Mr. Tomlin was under the mistaken impression that your letter to him last week was actually from Mr. Harbaugh.

    BTW, bit off topic, but I thought that when the Ravens kicked that short field goal in the 2nd quarter on Sunday would have been a nice spot for a fake field goal. Unfortunately, thsat ship likely sailed when Mr. Harbaugh showed the play against the Raiders.

    (DF: You saw the “First edition” of the blog where I made that mistake on the 2-pointer against Oakland. Check the “Final”…it’s right. LOL. I know you don’t have the guts to call out your coach. That’s why I did it for you. You’re welcome.)

  5. Steve Says:

    I’ll call out my coach, Drew! Totally surprised about it. Read somewhere yesterday about Harbaugh’s comments after the first game, that the Raven’s were the tougher team. I don’t agree with that comment. But some believe that and something else said must have irritated Tomlin. Still no reason to do what he did. If so he could have addressed that at midfield. Hopefullly there will be a third avt this year!

  6. Steve from Sandpoint Says:

    Drew, get over it, I worry more about Ray Rice lack of touches in the fourth qtr; no pass rush, dropped balls, steelers open receivers in the middle of the field, Cam Camerons inept offense, thank god big ben didn’t play. There is more to worry about the lack of a handshake, believe me. (DF: LOL – “get over it”. Sorry, I didn’t realize I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion on it.)

  7. justafan Says:

    This is all much to do about nothing although it does give you something to write about.

  8. charlie Says:

    excellent column, drew. and i like how you make it clear that ‘nitpicking’ or criticizing harbaugh here and there isn’t calling for his head. he’s a good coach, but he’s not perfect. what was perfect — perfectly bush-league — was tomlin’s act. thanks for telling us about it. i’d hope the team would care enough to get fired up.

  9. Robert Canady Says:

    As others have said, Tomlin just dropped down several notches on my list of repected coaches. I’m sure he’s heartborken :)

    But you just don’t do that to a peer, unless he directly did something dirty. Even the faking of field goals and such don’t warrant that. I agree with Harbaugh’s sentiment, if you’re going to let us score, we will.

    It’s the old saying, if you don’t want to be shown up..them stop them.

    Would love to know what is behind Tomlins thoughts there.

  10. Marty Says:

    I can guarantee you this, if this would have happened in reverse, all the sports talk shows would have been buzzing, that someone dissed their precious Steeler’s coach. But what’s good for the Steelers is good for the NFL and for CBS so all is good. Right? Remember all the on on field crap Cower used to get away with? He’d run out on the field, he touched officials several times and not a penalty, fine or word said. The Ravens were given a 15 yard penalty three years against New England because Harbaugh yelled out BS call. Certainly there is a double standard in the league. If you wear gold and black or play on Foxborough, you get special treatment.

  11. unitastoberry Says:

    @ Marty- You got it right.NFL=No friend of Baltimore League.

  12. Brian Says:

    Well, I’m glad someone wrote an article about the BS that went on at mid field. I was shocked that everyone (media) wrote it off as a big nothing when in reality it’s a pretty big deal for all reasons stated in the article above.

    Total punk move by Tomlin. Harbaugh handled it like a man, bottom line.

  13. Art Lawrence Says:

    As Allen Iverson would say….we’re talking about handshakes man..handshakes? Where’s the analyis of what went wrong? Where’s the suggestions for improvements? (DF: Try listening to the show. I talked about “what went wrong” on Monday and Tuesday.)

  14. Mike Flatus Says:

    As always Drew, very entertaining. However, I don’t think there is much here. I’m guessing Tomlin realizes now it was a D move but was caught up in emotion. It does not bother me if they hate each other but I suspect that is not the case. I live on the West coast now and the talk here is that it is not a coincidence that another Harbaugh was involved in a handshake incident. Lot of ego in that family. Tough loss, put it behind, and focus on RG3.

  15. Towson Black & Gold Says:


    Go to Google and type in “pictures of John Harbaugh and Pete Carroll”. The 2nd photo shows clearly that Harbaugh did the same EXACT thing to Carroll last year when the Ravens lost to Seattle. Same Thing. So to get on your high horse and say Harbaugh has never done that is simply wrong. Let’s face it – when the Ravens lose, Harbaugh is one of the biggest pouty puppies there is. By the way, I do not agree with what Tomlin did – clearly, there’s a respect issue and/or as you pointed out, Tomlin may be upset with Harbaugh re: last year’s game and the two point conversion which, let’s be honest, was bush league as ever. Enjoy the show and welcome your response. (DF: My response? I went to Google and the first pic on the top row shows Harbaugh LOOKING Pete Carroll in the eye while they SHAKE HANDS FACE TO FACE. Any other dumb stuff you want to try and pass along as evidence? Right, I didn’t think so. I feel bad for you people who don’t have the balls to just say “My coach (Tomlin, in your case) was wrong on Sunday. No excuses. No further comment. He was wrong.” Can’t say it, can you? Of course not.)

  16. PghSteve Says:

    Ok, Tomlin was wrong. Feel better?

    Odd, but when I googled “pictures of John Harbaugh and Pete Carroll” the first picture that came up for me was the one on the link below:

    (DF: Yep, I feel better. It only took you three days to admit what everyone else knew Sunday night around 7:30 pm. Good luck in the post-season if yinz are lucky enough to make it.)

  17. PghSteve Says:

    Thanks! All teams can use a bit of luck, or a whole lot of in some cases.

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