LATROBE, Pa. — Mike Tomlin brushed off criticism from former player James Harrison that the Pittsburgh Steelers coach is not disciplined enough.
At his news conference to start Steelers training camp, Tomlin, who enters his 12th year, said he hasn’t thought much about Harrison’s critique.
“He has an opinion. He’s entitled to it,” said Tomlin from St. Vincent College. “He doesn’t play for us right now, man. I’m focused on 2018, man. That soap opera stuff, I’ll let you guys play that game.”
Harrison, the Steelers’ all-time sack leader who retired this offseason after a brief stint with the New England Patriots, said on Fox Sports 1’s “Undisputed” last week that Bill Belichick was the better coach.
“Mike Tomlin is good as a head coach,” Harrison said. “He’s a players’ coach. I think he needs to be a little bit more disciplined. The big thing with Belichick is he’s very regimented, he’s disciplined, everyone is going to be on the same page, there’s not going to be anything as far as someone doing their own thing. I think over there [in New England] their whole coaching staff is like that.”
Harrison, who forced his way out of Pittsburgh in late 2017 by leaving games early and sleeping through meetings, said Tomlin should be “more consistent across the board with everything, from your stars to your special-teams players.”
The Steelers finished 13-3 last year but lost a crucial Week 15 matchup with New England in the final seconds and gave up 45 points to Jacksonville in a divisional playoff game.
Several Steelers players defended their coach when reporting to camp.
“Coach Tomlin is the best. You guys see it,” center Maurkice Pouncey said. “He has a Super Bowl. He runs the team the right way. After you retire, everyone has a lot to say.”
Tomlin said each team takes on its own identity, and he spends a portion of each offseason reflecting on the job he has done and how to improve.
One of Tomlin’s next tasks is handling Le’Veon Bell‘s eventual return. The star running back is skipping his second consecutive training camp after back-to-back summers of failed contract negotiations. Bell has not signed his franchise tag tender and thus can’t be fined for missing time.
Tomlin said he has had “fluid” discussions with Bell that he will keep private and will approach Bell’s situation just like last year: see him when he shows up.
“When he gets here, we’ll evaluate his overall readiness and how much time he missed and see the ramification,” he said.