Last Saturday, ESPN's Bob Holtzman reported that the Pittsburgh Steelers were planning on using a trick play during the team's AFC divisional playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. Mike Tomlin was not pleased and let Holtzman know it during a press conference this week.
"Two Steelers have told me, if they catch the Ravens in the right defense, they have a trick play ready to go today that they've never run before," Holtzman said in a live report before the game. He went on to suggest that the play was to involve wide receiver Antwaan Randle El(notes) throwing the ball.
It was an egregious breach of reporting etiquette. Beat writers and television reporters often see teams running gadget plays in practice and hear tidbits about game plans from players and it's understood that such information is off the record. Holtzman didn't follow protocol and it earned him a rebuke from Tomlin in the coach's Wednesday press conference.
Holtzman, whom ESPN should have sent elsewhere this week, set up the coach by asking, "what extra time and preparation does it take to prepare for a Rex Ryan defense?"
"It depends on whether or not you gave him my plays," Tomlin curtly responded before moving on to another question. The exchange begins at the 1:34 mark of the clip below.
Tomlin was so excited to deliver his one-liner that he barely listened to Holtzman's question. Once he heard the reporter's voice, the Pittsburgh coach put on his best menacing face and was chomping at the bit, ready to take a shot. It didn't even matter that Tomlin's retort didn't really make sense. The dig was all that mattered.
That was a perfect way for Tomlin to handle the situation. Make it known that you're not happy, get Holtzman feeling a little uncomfortable in front of his peers and then move on. Don't make a big deal about it.
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As it was, the report itself wasn't very damning. Randle El has thrown 18 passes in his Steelers career, four of which have gone for touchdowns. It's not like the Ravens weren't prepared for the possibility that he might come around the end, take a pitch from Ben Roethlisberger(notes) and throw a pass. (He ended up not throwing a pass in the game.) But that's irrelevant. Holtzman made a mistake and he paid in public ridicule and with the likelihood that he'll never again get a scoop from the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Meanwhile, is there anyone involved in this game who isn't mad at some ESPN personality?