Last Saturday, before the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC divisional playoff round, ESPN reporter Bob Holtzman shared what he thought was a harmless account of things to expect in the third installment of the rivalry this season.
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 went on to mention that the play would involve someone other than Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger throwing the football.
Well, in a game where a single yard gained or lost could be the difference towards winning or losing, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin did not see it as a harmless remark.
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After all, NFL teams spend hours upon hours studying film to prepare themselves for what they will encounter on gameday. One seemingly harmless announcement to the world about plays to expect provide in a game make it that much easier for an opposing team to prepare their gameplan.
Certainly, players must still execute on the knowledge gained, but it is much less of a tall task to recognize such a trick play when a reporter proclaims to expect it before the game begins.
The Steelers went on to win the game and advance to this Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the New York Jets, but Tomlin took the time in a press conference this week to make a jab at Holtzman. It must have been fate that Holtzman was assigned to cover Tomlin's press conference this week.
Fast forward to the 1:30 mark for the exchange between Holtzman and Tomlin.
Sideline reporters have access to pre-game practices and warmups, so the fact that they encounter knowledge of plays that might be used in a team's gameplan is not news. Sharing that information, however, is what Yahoo writer Chris Chase calls an "egregious breach of reporting etiquette."
We here at Stars and Slights concur. Don't expect to see Bob Holtzman on the sidelines reporting at this week's AFC Championship Game.