By all accounts there’s no love lost between the organizations, at least from Coach Tomlin’s perspective. This was evident when Pittsburgh’s star receiver, Antonio Brown, filmed a Facebook Live session in the locker room after the Steelers stunning 18-16 win over the Kansas City Chiefs after a 2017 AFC Playoff Game. Mike Tomlin used colorful words about the Patriots during the seventeen minute video and expressed his disdain for the NFL’s decision to postpone their game with the Chiefs due to an ice storm. That postponement gave the Patriots more rest before their eventual matchup with the Steelers.
“When you get to this point in the journey, not a lot needs to be said,” Tomlin said to his team and Antonio Brown’s forty thousand followers viewing online. “Let’s say very little moving forward. Let’s start our preparations. We spotted those assholes a day and a half. They played yesterday, our game got moved to tonight. We gonna touch down at 4 o’clock in the fucking morning. So be it — we’ll be ready for their ass.”
Tomlin’s words could’ve been perceived as standard language used to rally his troops and he did his part to make light of his comments in the commencement speech to Robert Morris University the following summer in May:
“I’ll proceed with a couple of assumptions,” he said. “And I realize that assumptions are very dangerous. There’s a cliché about assuming, isn’t it? It can make Patriots out of you and me.”
But, this wasn’t the only occasion when Tomlin felt the need to make his thoughts about the Patriots organization known. On a Thursday night football game at Gillette Stadium in September of 2015, the Steelers coaching staff lost communications with each other. During the postgame press conference, Tomlin did not attempt to contain his disgust about the mishap and even asserted that such issues were “always the case” when playing against the Patriots franchise.
Full exchange with reporters:
Mike there was a report that your radio went out?
“That’s always the case.”
“So you’re saying every time you play here you have rad-”
“I said what I said.”
“Mike what exactly happened, you just didn’t have any communication?”
“We were listening to the Patriots radio broadcast for the majority of the first half. On our headsets.”
Of course there was an immediate investigation by the league. The league was quick to report that the Steelers’ equipment experienced technical difficulties that were somehow exacerbated by the poor weather. Few media outlets bothered to let NFL fans know that communication issues are not uncommon at Gillette Stadium. Communication problems have occurred multiple times before.
Michael David Smith of NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk reported the Steelers’ incident was the 5th such reported case:
1. During a playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2005
2. In 2006, Paul Zimmerman of Sports Illustrated reported that Detroit Lions coach Mike Martz complained of a breakdown in communications in the middle of two successful offensive drives
3. The Cincinnati Bengals coach, Marvin Lewis, divulged the same problems playing in Foxboro
4. Karlos Dansby suspected the Patriots of wrongdoing as late as 2008, when the Cardinals visited Gillette Stadium
5. And, finally the Steelers