Steelers’ Mike Tomlin Backs Emphasis on Taunting, Ryan Clark Adds Player Perspective

Mike Tomlin and Ryan Clark

Getty Images Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (left) and ESPN commentator Ryan Clark.

Monday night’s game between the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers was filled with controversial penalty calls, but probably none more scrutinized than the taunting penalty called on Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh with 3:34 left in the game. The penalty kept a Pittsburgh drive alive, one that produced a field goal that helped the Steelers beat the Bears, 29-27.

That said, it’s no surprise that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin—one of three head coaches on the league’s 10-person competition committee—was asked on Tuesday whether he is “a proponent of the taunting rule that is being emphasized” this year.

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“I am,” he answered, unequivocally. “We are just trying to clean our game up. We are trying to embrace the responsibility that comes with being the role models that we are, this game being played at the highest level. We understand that people that play it at a lower level watch us and often mimic the things that we do and how we conduct ourselves. Just largely as a league—and the competition committee specifically—there was a desire to improve in that area.”

Tomlin went on to say that he has specifically talked about the taunting rule with his players.

“That been expressed to our guys. We have been shown examples of that throughout team development and we continue to reinforce that as examples in a negative way turn up during the course of the journey for us and for others.

Ryan Clark: ‘On That One Play I Gotta Calm All That Down…?’

But as noted by NFL reporter Dov Kleinman, former Steelers safety and current ESPN commentator Ryan Clark made some good points on ESPN’s NFL Live, saying, “I think we can’t make the call subjective. If there are going to be certain rules or certain things that are going to be officiated in this, they need to be definitive. I need to know that I can’t stare at people, I need to know that I can’t flex my muscles,” he added.

Never mind that it would be an almost insurmountable challenge to codify all the possible ways in which a player could taunt an opposing player—or the opposing team. What’s notable here is how Clark relates all the emotion that comes to the surface when a player makes a “splash play,” as Tomlin might put it.

“I need to know that what I have worked my entire life to do … the thing that I have stayed up from five in the morning to midnight every single night … the thing that I have gotten therapy and needles stuck in me from my neck to my ankles … the reason I have been in hot tubs and cold tubs every single morning and the reason I have ran through film 80 million times is so I can make that one play,” he said.

“You mean to tell me on that one play I gotta calm all that down, that went into this, because somebody who can’t do what I do, who ain’t never done what I’ve done, and don’t know what this feeling is like, gets offended by it? Then I wish I freakin’ would (get flagged),” he concluded.

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Expect the Steelers to Add a Player to the Practice Squad

Meanwhile, one can expect the Steelers to add a player to the practice squad on either Wednesday or Thursday. There is a spot open since the Steelers released kicker Josh Lambo from the practice squad on Tuesday.

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