View Full Version : Despite ties to Vikings, Tomlin maintains focus

10-24-2009, 01:22 AM
Despite ties to Vikings, Tomlin maintains focus
Saturday, October 24, 2009
By Chuck Finder, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mike Tomlin paused after practice yesterday to chat with his bosses, Art II and Dan Rooney Next, the Steelers head coach visited for a moment with boxer Roy Jones Jr. and friends. Then, he jogged off the field.

Speeding back to work because there's extra adrenaline, extra fervor, about playing his former boss and many of the Minnesota Vikings defensive players he coordinated before coming to Pittsburgh?

"Nah, man," Tomlin said emphatically. "This is business. You know how that goes."

Tomorrow afternoon, he stands across Heinz Field from the head coach, Brad Childress, and the Minnesota franchise that, in 2006, gave him his first opportunity to be a coordinator in 12 years as a coach. He sends his Steelers against six of the same starters -- provided cornerback Antoine Winfield's ailing foot allows him to play -- and another backup-turned-starter whom he molded three years ago in what remains a staunch unit under his successor, Leslie Frazier.

Neither Tomlin nor Childress nor 3-year-old history will make a catch, block or tackle. Yeah, players on both sides have heard it all before. From Tomlin, especially.

It is what it is.

"For us, because it has been so many years that have passed, it doesn't have as much weight to it," said Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, a free-agent who arrived in Minnesota the same year as Tomlin and flourished. "I think we're kind of [more] excited to play them because they're the defending world champions."

Leber, Winfield, cornerback Cedric Griffin, linebacker E.J. Henderson and the Williams Wall, matching 300-plus-pound tackles Kevin and Pat, were all stalwarts in Tomlin's single season at Minnesota. Defensive end Ray Edwards became a starter under Frazier, like Tomlin, another sprout from the Tony Dungy tree.

"It hit me that I've been gone from there for quite some time just watching tape preparing for this week," Tomlin said. "A lot of the faces are unfamiliar to me. A lot of the schemes and things they're doing are unfamiliar to me. And that's not surprising. It has been three years since I've worked there, of course. They've got a great coordinator in Leslie Frazier. ... So they're a different defense, a great defense, one that we respect, and I'm not going to devalue what they're doing or underestimate what they're capable of simply because I have a history with that organization."

So he didn't exactly look at Vikings film as if it were an episode of the old "Romper Room" television show: I see Benny and E.J. and the Williamses. ...

Though film sessions with the coach called Mike T. always are memorable.

Keep the tape hot.

" 'Reporting the news,' " Mewelde Moore, a halfback then with Minnesota and the Steelers now, recalled how Tomlin headlines his tape times. And was that assessment accurate? Added Moore, "Hey, it's the truth." Or, in the head coach's words:

The tape doesn't lie.

Tomlin has not changed from Minnesota to here, Moore added. "No, not at all. I remember him addressing the team, the defense, when he was defensive coordinator. We were separated offense and defense. He's the same way. I heard him through the walls then and get to hear him up close and personal now. He never changed. And that's something that you can really appreciate."

"I think the whole team was enamored by his intensity and his emotion," Leber said. "He came in day in and day out, every day of the year, and had the same enthusiasm. We fed off that. We quickly learned to love the guy and respect the guy. He put us in good positions. You couldn't ask for much more.

"One of things I had never really had with a defensive coordinator was just overall transparency like with Mike. He came in and said, 'Listen, we're all going to be accountable.' I had guys say it before, but they didn't carry all the way through. He backs it up. It was a hard pill to swallow ... because all your errors are being shown to the team. But it brought everybody together, made everybody accountable."

We are who we are.

"He also got a good read for us as people, personalities, and also skill sets," Leber added. "Had a pretty successful year with him. It was unfortunate to lose him. We got another great coach behind him and couldn't be more happier for his success there in Pittsburgh."

Napoleon Harris could be Mike Tomlin. This former Vikings starting linebacker used to mimic his old coordinator. The mannerisms, the barking amid a walk-through, the catchphrases.

Moore does a fair imitation without trying. In essence, he preaches what Tomlin, going by the comment yesterday, tries to practice: Just because it is their former team, just because it is Brett Favre and Adrian Peterson and a 6-0 Minnesota, does not make the game any more critical.

"This is the most important game we have on the schedule because it's the next one," Moore said.

"It's the one in front of us, it's the one that we're facing. And that's how we treat every game. That's it.

"We respect everybody the same way. That's just how we do it around here."

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10-24-2009, 08:34 AM
Really Chuck? Geez, I was worried that he'd be too distracted.