View Full Version : Tomlin Has Eye On Big Picture

09-09-2008, 01:19 AM
Tomlin has eye on big picture

Bob Labriola, a Pittsburgh native, has been editor of Steelers Digest since its inception in 1988. This page offers him an opportunity to provide additional insights into the Steelers, the NFL and the events that are making news.

Studying history can be tedious, what with all the dates to memorize and names to keep straight. But living history can be another matter entirely.

Dino Tomlin and his younger brother, Mason, are on a first-name basis with Ben Roethlisberger, and it’s no big deal to them. Every other 7- and 6-year-old boys in Pittsburgh would love to have the Steelers starting quarterback pop his head in and chat during an impromptu visit with Mom and Dad, but to them it’s just more football.

They’re more likely to remember fondly the time when they were living in Minnesota and the Minneapolis mayoral race came to their front door.

“My boys have had an interest in politics for a couple of years now,” said Dad, a.k.a., Coach Mike Tomlin. “When we lived in Minnesota, there was a mayor’s race, and one of the candidates knocked on the door of our home and stood there and talked to my wife for a few minutes.

They’ve really been interested in it since then. A lot of times I think we sell kids short in terms of their capacity to understand things and be interested in different things. That happens to be one of their interests.”

For two young boys interested in politics, imagine the thrill of meeting Barack Obama and Joe Biden as the Democratic candidates made a recent stop in Pittsburgh after getting
their party’s nominations in Denver in late August.

“I had an opportunity, if nothing else, to introduce my kids to two U.S. senators,” said Tomlin. “It was an awesome experience, and we appreciated it. I appreciated the fact
my two boys understood the gravity of what they were doing. They get a little numb to football sometimes — Ben may come over to the house, and they’re like, ‘Hey, Ben’ in a
matter-of-fact way. But they understood the gravity of this, which made it special and something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”

And maybe the best part of the entire experience was that it had nothing to do with football. “I make such a conscious effort as a parent to leave all opportunities open for my kids,” said Tomlin.

“What I do can dominate our lives so much that you worry about your kids thinking that there’s nothing else. My wife and I make a conscious effort to make them understand
that what I do happens to be one field of human endeavor. They can follow their passions and excel in whatever they choose to do, whether it’s football or politics or
what have you.”


One of the many pitfalls of being in the sports media business is that sometimes deadlines occur before all of the information is in, and this can create some embarrassing moments. Take Sports Illustrated’s NFL Preview issue. My copy arrived on Wednesday, Aug. 27, three days before teams were required to reduce their rosters to the in-season maximum of 53 players. In its preview of the Houston Texans, the magazine devoted six of eight paragraphs on the team to the acquisition of Rosevelt Colvin, with a seventh detailing how Colvin was going to impact the defense’s pass rush.

Colvin was released on Aug. 30.


You’ve heard of how Steelers veterans welcome newcomers to the team and help them get acclimated to their new surroundings. This would be the polar opposite of that. The Detroit Lions had brought Rudi Johnson in for an interview after the Bengals released the veteran running back. While Johnson was in team president Matt Millen’s office, he left his luggage outside the door, two Gucci bags he had gotten at the Pro Bowl. “It was top
of the top,” said Johnson. When the meeting was over and Johnson came out to pick up his luggage, it was gone. The first thought was that the cleaning staff had put the bags away for safe keeping, but later on Lions director of security Ricky Sandoval checked the facility’s surveillance video and saw that Tatum Bell had taken the bags.

Bell, a veteran running back like Johnson, was released when the Lions signed Johnson. That added a sinister element to the whole thing.

“I got the bags back empty,”

Johnson said. “So he got a bunch of my underclothes. What he’s going to do with that, I don’t know ... He left the money clip, but he didn’t leave the money in it. He should
have taken the clip, too ... If anybody’s got some Perry Ellis boxers for sale, you know where they came from.”

Bell told this version:

Knowing he was going to be released, Bell went to clean out his locker. Because Victor DeGrate, who like Bell also played college football at Oklahoma State, asked him to grab his backpack, Bell grabbed the two bags by the computer area, because he thought they
belonged to DeGrate.

“I didn’t have a clue,” Bell said. “I wasn’t thinking or nothing at the time. I just grabbed the backpack and grabbed the other bag. It wasn’t in a locker or nothing like that. It
was just sitting right there by the computers. ... So I grabbed them and put them in the car.”

Bell said he took the bags to a friend of DeGrate’s, as DeGrate had asked him to do. When Johnson got the bags back the following day, he reported some items were missing
— socks, underwear, his identification, credit cards and about $200 in cash.

“I’m not going to the police for this one,” said Johnson. “I don’t need anybody else, I can handle it.” Bell has maintained his innocence.