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Mike Tomlin Responds to Minkah Fitzpatrick’s Critical Comments on Steelers Culture



Steelers HC Mike Tomlin
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin in a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Acrisure Stadium on Oct. 29, 2023. -- Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin always uses his trademark ‘Tomlinisms’ to highlight and illustrate points to his players. Of course, one of those signature sayings is to ‘smile in the face of adversity,’ but so far this season, the Steelers are not doing that much.

So, when Minkah Fitzpatrick came out after Thursday’s loss to the Patriots and made critical comments on the culture and his teammates.

“I think too many people don’t want to toil for it. They just want to walk out here and think that they’re going to make plays and think that they’re going to perform at a high level. I think we need to have more people who want to work for it, not expect it to be handed to them,” Fitzpatrick told ESPN. “This is the NFL. Nothing’s handed to you. You got to earn everything. I think that dudes just think that because they’re wearing the black and gold, that they’re going to win games, and I think we need to check that mentality and make people realize that they got to earn that mentality.”

Steelers FS Minkah Fitzpatrick

Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick warms up against the New England Patriots, Dec. 7, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

That’s a mentality shift. So, it’s a culture thing. Either the head coach is allowing that or the players themselves are not taking it seriously. But either way, it’s a huge issue. That reflects directly back on Mike Tomlin and his staff. If the players are not working hard enough to improve and fix issues, it’s hard to build a winning program consistently. But Tomlin is not bringing the alarm bells.

“You know, he was probably talking about smiling in the face of adversity,” Tomlin said. “These are going to be tough, tough games and there’s going to be some adversity, there’s going to be some challenges, nothing is going to be given to us and we have to fight that. We’ve got to smile in the face of that. [Fitzpatrick is] a guy who does that and lives that life and I’m sure he’s just challenging others to do the same. We have to do a better job of that in an effort to change the outcome of games.”

That’s not Tomlin brushing it off, but it’s not him hitting the panic button, either. Behind the scenes, it’s likely Tomlin is hammering home the details as much as anyone to a locker room that is on the ropes. But Tomlin does think that he ‘certainly’ has players that smile in the face of adversity. As long as he believes that, it seems to give him confidence that his players can rise up to the challenge.