Steelers coach Mike Tomlin ‘saddened’ by ‘distractions’ of sports gambling, fantasy football

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The manner in which the Pittsburgh Steelers won their Week 13 game against the Atlanta Falcons was a testament to not only a team of talented football players, but also a team of smart ones. When Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted a pass thrown by Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota from deep in his own territory, the Steelers were able to ensure a 19-16 victory on the road, a score that could have been higher had Fitzpatrick opted to run the ball back into the endzone for a defensive touchdown.

But knowing that the game was over and the offense only needed to kneel out the clock in victory formation, Fitzpatrick opted to run out of bounds instead to put the game on ice and guarantee the Falcons would never touch the ball again.

By the book, it was a smart situational play by Fitzpatrick, but it ended up drawing the ire of fantasy football owners and bettors who felt cheated out of a Steelers touchdown. The noise was enough that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin took a moment on his weekly show to openly lament the effect that both fantasy football and gambling have on the NFL. 

“It is ridiculous that we’re talking about something other than winning. Whether or not you had the Steelers defense and the fantasy points that you lost, or the gambling aspects of overs and unders,” Tomlin said. “On a personal note, I’m saddened often by the distractions that can become part of viewing and enjoying men competing at the highest level of the game that we all love by fantasy teams and over and under lines. It’s unfortunate at times, really.”

Tomlin went on to commend Fitzpatrick’s situational awareness and selflessness, saying that he should be “championed” for such traits as opposed to scorned by those upset over the lack of an unnecessary touchdown or the effect on the over and under of the game.

This weekend, far more is on the line for Tomlin than outside distractions. Standing at 5-8 on the season, one more loss will mean that Tomlin will suffer his first-ever losing season as head coach of the Steelers. Preserving Tomlin’s spotless record will not be an easy one, as they will be on the road facing a red-hot Carolina Panthers team without starting quarterback Kenny Pickett.