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

December 03, 2012 | Drew Forrester

Instead, he only got the “Congratu” out before the Pittsburgh coach quickly shifted left and stomped off like a 12-year old who just found out the community pool was closed for cleaning.  As he was finishing with “lations”, Tomlin was nearly long gone.

It was then, realizing that Tomlin was giving him the brush-off, that Harbaugh reacted accordingly and yanked the Pittsburgh coach back in his direction to reaffirm the message.

“Hey, I said congratulations” said Harbaugh, with some force.

The Steelers coach threw in a snarky, “Yeah, thanks, nice job” and then bolted for his locker room.


There’s just no other way to critique it.

Anyone with an athletic background knows there are certain things in sports that are non-negotiable.

When a player gets injured in a game and is unable to leave the field without medical supervision, everyone takes a knee and offers a silent thought or prayer.  There’s no giggling.  No laughing.  No discreet fist-bumps for the guy who laid the big hit.  While the injured player is down, everyone forgets about football for a minute.

You never criticize your team owner in public.  It’s just not something you do.  Reason?  He pays you.  You like your job.  So, no matter what, you always talk about how much you “love” the owner, even if you’ve never met the man for anything other than a handshake on the sidelines during a pre-game warm-up.

And the other non-negotiable element that comes to mind?

Professional coaches, those elite men who work harder than anyone can ever imagine, have this amazing inner-code that prohibits them from ever criticizing or disrespecting one another publicly.

Let’s go back to this season’s Week #5 in the NFL.  The Ravens traveled to KC to take on the hapless Chiefs, who couldn’t beat an egg the first ten weeks of the season and were laughably inept at home against John Harbaugh’s team.  But there he was in the press conference afterwards, starting off the proceedings by reminding everyone in the room that – quote – “That’s a good football team we beat over there today (pointing to the Chiefs locker room).  They’re a well-coached, tough group of players.  They’re going to figure out a way to win a bunch of games.”

Almost none of that was true, of course.  The Chiefs stink.  Well coached?  Eh, maybe.  With the talent they have, their record should be better.  And no, they’re not winning a bunch of games, unless you add up their total wins from this year and next, perhaps.

But, as he was taught to do by his father, I assume, Harbaugh took to the podium after that 9-6 win and talked about the Chiefs as if they were the second coming of the ’72 Dolphins.

That’s what coaches do for one another.

And do you know why?

Because they know how hard the other guy is working.

John Harbaugh – and anyone who makes their Faith an important part of their daily routine – knows all too well the great saying:  “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Every coach of a 7-2 team who just beat the snot out of a 2-7 team knows for certain that one year later, it could be his team at 2-7.

Harbaugh and Tomlin have no past “midfield history”, that much I know for sure.

I wondered that on Monday and did some sniffing around, only to find out that all of their other encounters have been occasionally light and friendly but mostly professional and respectful.

I don’t expect them to give one another gift cards to Bed, Bath and Beyond at midfield after a game, unlike their players, who fight and scratch and spit on one another for 60 minutes and then gather at game’s end to pray next to the guy they just kneed in the family jewels under the pile in the fourth quarter.

It doesn’t have to look like a family reunion at midfield when the two coaches meet, but it has to be respectful — and the guy who wins shoulders the burden of making sure the handshake isn’t impersonal or perfunctory.  That’s the unwritten rule that every coach knows.  “If I’m the one fortunate enough to win today, it’s my job to carry the handshake and the greeting and make sure the losing coach knows I respect how hard he and his staff worked to prepare for this game.”

There, but by the grace of God, go I.

Tomlin forgot that on Sunday night.  Why?  I have no idea.

Hell, for all I know, maybe he had to take a leak.

Perhaps the magnitude of the moment got to him, snapping his arch-rivals 16-game winning streak and all.

It could be a lingering bee-in-his-bonnet over that aforementioned two-point conversion in September of 2011 when the Ravens stomped Tomlin’s Steelers 35-7 and tacked on an extra point just for good measure.

Or , maybe, the winning head coach was just being a prick because the moment allowed for it.

No matter how or why, Mike Tomlin was completely out of line on Sunday.

It was – amongst coaches anyway – the lowest of the low-class gestures from one guy in the business to the other.

(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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