Every coach says they’re a football junkie. And to be fair, most are. But Mike Tomlin talks the talk and walks the walk. Tomlin doesn’t just love the NFL or college football. If there’s a field of athletes and a football, he’s watching it. Tomlin was the guest on Ben Roethlisberger’s latest episode of Footbahlin and shared his love for everything football, right down to the absolutely obscure.
“There’s this league called the A7’s,” Tomlin told the show. “It’s based out of Eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, Jersey. And it is tackle football, no pads. It is awesome. It is online…these guys are goons.”
The A7s. Honestly, it’s a league I’ve never heard of. But a quick search pops it right up and Tomlin isn’t kidding. Full contact. No pads. Essentially it’s rugby with American football rules. Here’s a game between Trenton and Baltimore from 2021. You can check out the full game here but here’s a clip of just one play below.
There are some differences. It’s a 7v7 game and there is no actual center/quarterback exchange. But the quarter length is the same, the football is the same size (though it’s white, almost a nod back to football’s early days for night games), and it generally follows the same format, though the field is a bit more narrow. According to the team site, there are 36 clubs across the USA. The league was founded in 2014 and has shown impressive staying power.
As some have theorized, a game without helmets and pads makes the hitting a little less aggressive and nasty (of course, these aren’t NFL players either). But it’s fair to say no one leaves this game without a bunch of bruises and the league hasn’t been shy about putting together a compilation of monster hits. And this is apparently what Tomlin checks out in the little free time he has.
“Give it five minutes. Give it five minutes tonight. Promise me that.” Tomlin told Roethlisberger and co-host Spence, urging them to check the league out.
Tomlin also joked he and Roethlisberger should go own a franchise. The joke might be on them with the A7 FAQ page saying they have an “aggressive explanation plan.”
In addition to A7, Tomlin says he’s also kept close tabs on the XFL and ostensibly, the USFL, when it kicks back off next month. He told the show it was less about scouting for the Steelers and more about him just enjoying the game. If there’s a football game to be played, Tomlin is going to watch it. The A7’s new season kicks off later this month so we know how he will be spending the downtime of the offseason.
Check out the full episode with Tomlin by clicking below.