“We are not a Big Ten team playing a MAC opponent this week,” said Tomlin, before adding, “We always have rough and tumble games with those guys down [in Jacksonville].”
Ben Roethlisberger on Mike Tomlin’s Alma Mater
Not surprisingly, Roethlisberger—who played for Miami of Ohio, a Mid-American Conference (MAC) school—was asked about Tomlin’s comment at his own media session on Wednesday. He quipped that he “wasn’t too happy about that,” and he’d have something further to say once he figures out “what conference William & Mary is in,” a smile breaking across his face.
William & Mary is part of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA)—which is also home to schools like James Madison, Villanova and Delaware—and is widely considered a step down in class from the MAC, at least from a football perspective. Meanwhile, the Big Ten is home to traditional football powerhouses like Ohio State, the University of Michigan and Michigan State.
For his part, Mike Tomlin was a wide receiver at William & Mary—and harbored NFL dreams—which didn’t come close to becoming a reality.
During this past summer he recalled his college playing career, saying, “I had bigtime football playing aspirations, so for a lot of my playing years, I was miserable, because it wasn’t unfolding in the ways in which I envisioned it.”
But things worked out for the best.
“In pursuit of playing aspirations, I didn’t realize all along I was sharpening my sword for coaching. I was really passionate about the game. Playing to win and leading. Getting into the schematics of it,” he added.
It is notable, however, that Tomlin used the MAC as a comparison point for the Big Ten, as his team’s roster features more than a few players from the MAC, namely: linebacker Olasunkanmi Adeniyi (Toledo), linebacker Jayrone Elliott (Toledo), wide receiver Diontae Johnson (Toledo), offensive tackle Chukwuma Okorafor (Western Michigan), Robert Spillane (Western Michigan), Ulysees Gilbert III (Akron) and practice squad wide receiver Anthony Johnson (Buffalo).
To date it doesn’t appear that anyone other than Roethlisberger has weighed in on Tomlin’s MAC comment, though it appears certain that others will be asked about it later this week.
Chase Claypool Left Out of ESPN’s Rookie Rankings
In a more pronounced snub, Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool was left off of ESPN’s 2020 NFL Rookie Rankings, which were published on Wednesday morning.
To be fair, there are plenty of strong rookies this year, including wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Tee Higgins, who came in a #3 and #7 on ESPN’s Top 10, respectively.
But Claypool—who has 35 receptions for 500 yards and has scored nine touchdowns in nine games—wasn’t even mentioned in the “Just missed” category, or even a part of the “Keep an eye on …” category.
Incidentally, Los Angeles Chargers QB Justin Herbert came in at No. 1 on ESPN’s list, with Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow at No. 2.
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