Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin appeared on First Take this morning to once again defend quarterback Mason Rudolph and take issue with an Outside The Lines report ESPN aired over the weekend. The segment in question featured an interview with Myles Garrett, who doubled down on his claims Rudolph had directed a racial slur at him before the helmet-swinging incident last fall.
Tomlin, speaking to Stephen A. Smith, said it was important to properly support Rudolph.
"It was a thorough investigation done by us and the National Football League, I don't think that that was represented during that piece," he said. "Nobody on that field as a member of the Cleveland Browns or the Pittsburgh Steelers corroborated what was said by Myles Garrett. That was founded [sic] by us and the National Football League and at no point during that piece this weekend that was stated."
"We were hacked off by what we saw this weekend," Tomlin continued. "Not specifically for Myles Garrett. He's been in the lane that he's in, but what was displayed by ESPN and that panel. The way that the situation, I don't think was fair to Mason Rudolph and that's why I'm here."
The OTL panel Tomlin refers to featured Adam Schefter.
Asked what, specifically was unfair to Rudolph, Tomlin said "it was presented as a he said, he said situation. The National Football League office was very clear that they launched a thorough investigation ... and found no evidence of Myles' allegations."
Every player in every sport wants a coach that will publicly have his back like this. There's a reason why Tomlin is so popular.
A full-throated defense is only responsible if he's absolutely sure no damning evidence will come out of Rudolph using hateful language. Of course, it's important to point out that the absence of released evidence does not mean it didn't happen. The reality of the situation is we'll likely never know definitively if it happened or not.
But for Tomlin, one of the few African-American coaches in a league already struggling to achieve any reasonable inclusionary goal, throwing all his chips in on Rudolph is extremely significant. It should go a long way in the court of public opinion.
From the outside, the Outside The Lines presentation didn't seem all that unfair or slanted, but then again, that's easy to say when you're not at the center of the storm. Garrett's repeated claims are newsworthy and are best delivered with proper context. Perhaps ESPN fell a bit short there, but it wasn't an egregious error by any means.