Mike Tomlin is wary of technology, and he's resorting to extraordinary measures to protect his team against the threat of the robots.
When asked Thursday by reporters about the construction of a tarp hanging near one of the practice fields at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, the Pittsburgh Steelers coach offered an enigmatic explanation.
"I'll leave that somewhat mystical, man," Tomlin responded with a smile. "I'll let you guys hypothesize about the origin of that and its use, and at some point I will address it directly. It'll be the 2018 little side story."
Pressed for a more concrete impetus for raising a "plastic-bag-like structure" to block the view of his practices, Tomlin suggested that it was a preventive measure against flying machines.
"You know how it is, man. This is interesting times, drones and so forth, you know?" Tomlin said. "We do what we got to do to prepare and be ready to play and play on a level, fair, competitive playing field."
According to The Athletic's Mark Kaboly, the retractable tarp blocks the view from a recently constructed building that "sits higher than the field and provides a good view of practices."
Is the Steelers coach worried that shadowy characters are attempting to spy on his team's training from this high ground?
Said Tomlin, "I wonder about a lot of things."
In 2015, the NFL became the first American sports league to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly drones near its stadiums and film from the sky. There are few to no regulations, other than local laws, about their use at team facilities. Flying drones at practice have become a popular way for football teams at all levels to scheme new plays and watch film from a new vantage point.