Mike Tomlin Tosses Out Backhanded Compliment to Steelers Fan Base

Mike Tomlin

Getty Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Like every other NFL coach, Mike Tomlin loves, loves, loves his team’s fan base. And Pittsburgh Steelers fans definitely have some unique traditions, from waving terrible towels to turning out for games in droves and enduring all kinds of unholy weather.

But Tomlin definitely let his presser mojo get away from him a little when he commented on the Steelers’ lack of offensive mojo against the Cleveland Browns in Week 2.

Plenty of fans would love to send offensive coordinator Matt Canada off to the CFL after a night full of listless three-and-outs on Monday night, and in defending him Tomlin managed to indirectly insult the Steelers fan base with his postgame comments.

“I appreciate their passion,” the Steelers coach told reporters during his September 18 postgame press conference. “I share their passion. We all do. Man, we love our fans. They inspire us. They challenge us. It’s an awesome relationship. Man, we don’t run from challenges.

“This is the sport-entertainment business. It is our job to win and thus entertain them. And so we don’t begrudge them for that. We want them to be fat and sassy and spoiled. It is our job.”

Tomlin was defending Canada—the coordinator, not the country—in his comments, of course.

What Mike Tomlin Likely Meant

Interpreting Tomlin-speak is always an exercise in verbal gymnastics, but in this case, it’s fairly straightforward. In responding to the boo birds who were out and chanting “Fire Canada,” Tomlin was also clapping back a bit at a demanding fan base that’s grown used to winning during his now-17-year run in Pittsburgh.

He’ll undoubtedly hear about that “fat and sassy and spoiled” line again if the Pittsburgh offense continues to struggle in 2023. Tomlin’s comment wasn’t quite as dramatic as Aaron Rodgers’ memorable “R-E-L-A-X” quote when the Packers stumbled out of the gate back in 2014, but he was basically telling fans to stay patient. Back in the day, he might have gone with “fat and happy,” but that would get him in all kinds of hot water these days. 

The 26-22 victory helped the Steelers stay out of an 0-2 hole after getting decimated by the 49ers in game one, and Tomlin’s comments also indicated that he fully understands that QB Kenny Pickett is anything but a finished product.

Will the Steelers Offense Continue to Be Offensive?

The ultimate yardstick in all this will be Pittsburgh’s ability to move the football going forward. Whether Matt Canada is the right OC for Pickett’s development remains an open question, but the utter lack of a running game so far—less than a hundred yards in two games with a 3.1-yard average per carry—is definitely concerning.

The schedule suggests that the Steelers could have some wiggle room. Pittsburgh travels to Las Vegas for a Week 3 Sunday night matchup against a Raiders defense that got lit up for 38 points in Buffalo in Week 2. Their opponent the following week, Houston, gave up 31 against a Colts team led mostly by career backup Gardner Minshew.

That buys Canada some time. What he does with it could go a long way toward determining Pittsburgh’s fortunes this year, especially with the first of two annual grudge matches against the Ravens next up on the docket.

If the Steelers can ace their little road test, their fans can go back to being “fat and sassy and spoiled.” And Mike Tomlin’s convoluted verbal love affair with the fan base can continue unabated.

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