Bob Smizik: Only Tomlin knows his true intent

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Final words on the actions last week in Baltimore of Mike Tomlin, his fine and on the article that appeared here Tuesday on why he is unpopular with some fans.

* No one except Tomlin knows for certain what he was thinking or doing when he stepped on to the field against the Baltimore Ravens last week. Multiple videos of his actions have been shown and he has made a full statement and answered all questions of the Pittsburgh media.

Having seen most of the videos and having heard Tomlin’s explanations, my opinion is that his actions were unintentional. I base that mostly on the fact Tomlin would have to be a complete fool to knowingly attempt to interfere with play, which in this case was a kickoff return possibly headed for a touchdown against the Steelers. He is no fool. He’s a smart guy and one who rarely loses his composure. To think he would get caught up in the moment, basically lose his mind, and attempt to interfere in front of millions of people simply does not resonate.

Many might think otherwise and that is an opinion to which they are entitled, although I’d be curious to know what they believe his motivation for such a stunt might have been.

But none of us knows with certainty what he did or did not do. Anyone who says they do is kidding himself or herself.

* In that article about Tomlin’s unpopularity, this sentence was included: ''I have no doubt a small portion of the backlash against him is because he is a black man in a role that traditionally has gone to a white man in Pittsburgh.’’

I don’t think anything could be more clear. I was very specifically suggesting a small number were against Tomlin based on his race. Somehow, some interpreted that to mean anyone who doesn’t like Tomlin is a racist. That’s not true and that’s not what I said. Most of the dislike there is for Tomlin is because those people don’t think he’s a good football coach.

One other point in that article: Judging from comments, some were upset that I reprinted some of the nasty comments about Tomlin from a previous article. I reprinted those to support my contention that some people don’t like Tomlin. If I were writing a column about how popular he is, I would have chosen more favorable comments.

* There were over 500 comments in response to that story and many of them received multiple replies. One that received no replies came from Jim Wexell, who many of you might know as a writer who has covered the Steelers for decades and has written several books about the team. Not many know the team or the organization as well as Wexell.

He wrote, in a part, ''Fans just can't come to grips with the inevitable decline of a team that went to 3 Super Bowls in 6 years, and this era has a salary cap.’’

In one sentence, he captured the core of the problem. It’s not so much about Tomlin or Todd Haley or Dick LeBeau or Kevin Colbert. It’s about time. It has caught up with the Steelers. Some of their better players are getting old. They’ve had less success with the draft than in the past, although those drafts are starting to look better.

When a team is consistently picking in the bottom third of the draft or lower, its chances of coming up with good players is going to dwindle.

In a down year, the Steelers are in the hunt for a playoff spot in the 14th week of the season.

Almost no team stays at or near the top every year. It might be the Steelers time to slip away for a few years. It happens.

* The fine levied against Tomlin -- $100,000 -- was fair. He can afford it, although few can afford such a fine easily. The decision to possibly take away a draft choice is perplexing, although Ray Fittipaldo reported this reason:

''Ray Anderson, the NFL vice president of operations, made the ruling. The NFL did not make Anderson available to discuss the case, but a league source said Anderson is waiting to see if there are any ‘unforeseen ramifications from the interference with play.’

''Those ‘unforeseen ramifications’ could be things such as tiebreaking procedures that go into determining playoff qualification and/or seeding.’’

Which means the loss of a draft choice is highly, highly unlikely.


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