View Full Version : Make no mistake: Steelers are Tomlin's team this time around

02-02-2011, 09:11 PM
Make no mistake: Steelers are Tomlin's team this time around

Story Highlights:

To observers, Mike Tomlin seems to be really feeling it in Texas this week
Some felt Tomlin fortuitously rode Bill Cowher's old team to 2008 title
Tomlin's grip on Steelers tightened in 2010, as he navigated QB's suspension


Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin is trying to become the only head coach to win two Super Bowls before the age of 40.

DALLAS -- When Mike Tomlin last reached this game, winning it two years ago in Tampa to give the Pittsburgh Steelers their league-record sixth Super Bowl ring, some said he had fortuitously ridden Bill Cowher's old team to the title. It was seen as another triumph for the Steeler Way more than a triumph for Tomlin, and Pittsburgh's second-year head coach seemed part of the celebration tableau, without exactly being front and center in the victory parade.

But there's no such confusion about who's leading the way this time around, with the Steelers returning to the Super Bowl for the second time in three seasons. This is Tomlin's team, and if there's a feel I've gotten from Super Bowl XLV so far, it's that Mike Tomlin is really feeling it this week. Fully in charge. Fully in the moment. And sometimes, for a coach who has never lacked in self-confidence or swagger, maybe even a tad full of himself.

Like on Monday afternoon, at his first news conference of Super Bowl week, at the team hotel in Fort Worth. Tomlin was asked how going to a pair of Super Bowls so soon contrasted with his expectations for the job when he was hired in January 2007.
"It's probably about two Super Bowls too short of my vision, but that's just me,'' Tomlin quipped, only half-seriously (I think). "I'm not in a reflection mode. I'm really not. I'm just trying to do it. We're trying to maximize the opportunity that we have.

"Largely the core of this unit has been together here for a number of years, so we find ourselves in this game for the second time in four years. We're excited about it. It's not going to paralyze us. We're not going to dwell on it or over-analyze it. We are simply going to prepare and ultimately play. Maybe later in life, when we're all old, maybe we'll sit around and reflect a little bit.''

It's that urgency of now that Tomlin has consistently embraced since arriving in Pittsburgh a little more than four years ago, having beaten out some popular, in-house candidates (Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm) for the chance to fill Bill Cowher's shoes. Tomlin wasted no time testing his new team, cracking the whip on the discipline front to learn as much as possible about which of his players he could count on.

"That first year he came in, he had us hitting every day,'' Steelers linebacker James Harrison said. "We were in full pads up to Week 16. That was just part of him saying, 'Hey, this is my team. This is my way.' I think he really wanted to see who would go fight. Who would be there and stick it out through the storm? He wanted to see if he really had some dogs who were willing go in there and bite and fight. He had heard that he did, but he wanted to see it for himself first-hand.''

Tomlin's hiring in Pittsburgh looks like a masterstroke now, of course, but it didn't quite resonate the same way initially in the Steelers locker room. Continuity is a prized principle of success in Pittsburgh, and the then 34-year-old Tomlin didn't represent it. He didn't know the Steeler Way from Broadway, and more than one of the team's veterans second-guessed the move.

"There was skepticism,'' said Pittsburgh defensive end Brett Keisel, the words somehow fighting their way through that Grizzly Adams beard he's sporting this week. "He had never been a head coach, and we had candidates inside our locker room at the time that I think a lot of people thought were going to get the job. When they brought in Coach Tomlin, he was a young guy. People told me he coached with a lot of excitement, and I didn't know what to think.''

That process of transforming the Steelers from a club molded in the image of the demonstrative Cowher to the equally intense Tomlin wasn't completely finished by the time Pittsburgh won its most recent Super Bowl championship, at the end of Tomlin's second season, some Steelers say.

"It's his team now,'' Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward said. "But when he first inherited the team, a lot of those players were under Coach Cowher and did things Coach Cowher's way. Mike Tomlin was very militant when he came here. He wanted to see who was going to challenge his authority and he got rid of some of the guys who did.

"He kept the guys who followed what he wanted. He just wanted to lay down the law. 'This is my team, and I don't care how Coach Cowher did things.' A lot of the guys respected him for that. Once he got a full year or two in and got to know us, then he let up a little bit. He gave guys off time and stuff like that. I think guys love playing for him. He's just a pro's coach and he stands up for everybody.''

Tomlin's grip on the Steelers only tightened this season, as he and his successfully navigated through the Ben Roethlisberger controversy and resulting four-game suspension, injuries to key players, and the constant reshuffling that has been necessary on the team's offensive line. Tomlin knows now that he has a Steelers team that's buying what he's preaching, and stays as focused, driven and level-headed as the image he projects.

Steelers players discuss what it's like to play for Mike Tomlin, the first head coach to reach two Super Bowls before the age of 40.

"This team is kind of different [from the 2008 Super Bowl club] because of all the adversity we had to go through,'' Ward said. "Not having Ben for the first four games, having Troy [Polamalu] miss three games, Aaron Smith out, playing musical chairs with the offensive linemen. [Tomlin's] done a phenomenal job this year. He just keeps plugging guys in, and we keep winning.''

These Steelers now fully reflect their passionate head coach and his no-excuses style, every bit as much as the Patriots mirror Bill Belichick's cool and efficient approach, and the Jets take their cue from Rex Ryan's loud and proud form of leadership. Tomlin talks much about the historic winning legacy of the Steelers, and his role and responsibility in continuing it.

"It's not broken, so I wasn't going to try and fix it,'' said Tomlin, of the professional, team-first mindset that has prevailed in Pittsburgh for four decades. "It's sound, it's time-tested and it's proven.''

We're at least on the brink of echoing those same sentiments when it comes to Tomlin and his coaching methods. If his Steelers beat Green Bay on Sunday night in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, at age 38 he'll have the distinction of being both the youngest (he was 36 in 2009) and second-youngest Super Bowl winning head coach in NFL history. At that point, by the time he enters his fifth season in Pittsburgh, he'll have won more Super Bowl rings than Cowher, the 15-year Steelers head coaching veteran he replaced. And that doesn't even count the one he won as a Bucs assistant under Jon Gruden in 2002.

As self-assured as ever, Tomlin this week hasn't been afraid to talk about having even more Super Bowl success at so young an age. Asked if he lets himself look at the ring he won two years ago, Tomlin said he's too busy looking ahead to look back.

"I don't look at it too often,'' he said. "I'm always concerned about my next one. I have three kids and two rings, so I need another one.''

Tomlin isn't riding shotgun of this Steelers Super Bowl team. He's the driving force this time around, and his players know the Steeler Way and the Tomlin Way have merged and become one.

"He's been with this team four years now, and we've all been together for four years now,'' Pittsburgh linebacker LaMarr Woodley said. "He knows everyone on this team very well. He had a chance to go out and draft a few of his guys, so now he can call it his team.''

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02-02-2011, 10:38 PM
It was his team the last time around as well; the "it was Bill Cowher's team" BS is just that, BS. some people just hated Tomlin from day one and were going to make any excuse to mitigate his achievements.

It's really a shame, because, by all accounts Tomlin has stepped into the role of coach of the Steelers and ambassador for Pittsburgh as if he were born and raised in Pittsburgh. Steeler fans should be thankful, not vengeful, because their guy didn't get hired.


02-03-2011, 02:40 PM
Tomlin 'negotiating' a big raise


Nobody asked me about the Super Bowl, but . . .

* With his second Super Bowl in three years and a stellar career record of 48-22, Mike Tomlin will have most, if not all, of the leverage when his next contract is negotiated. That's several years down the road but he’s the hottest coach in football -- and just about the winningest -- and will demand significantly more than the Steelers ever have paid a coach.

* I understand the betting line doesn’t necessarily indicate which is the better team, but I do not understand the Steelers’ underdog role. They have the better quarterback, although not by much, a better defense, a better run offense and a superior recent post-season pedigree.

* I don’t get it with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Not only did he go out of his way to make critical comments about Ben Roethlisberger with Peter King, he also was critical of Bill Belichick to King. He needs to show better judgment.

* The great Hines Ward will not retire after this season, as has been suggested, but will return for one more year. By 2012, Emmanuel Sanders should be ready to take over Ward‘s job.

* If Aaron Smith and Maurkice Pouncey are not ready to play, and multiple reports say both are out of the game, Tomlin is being borderline dishonest in claiming they might.

* My sleeper candidate for Super Bowl MVP: Heath Miller.

* One day until Goodell’s Super Bowl news conference. That should be good.

* King, Pittsburgh’s favorite writer, picks the Steelers, 33-27, in the current issue of Sports Illustrated with Roethlisberger throwing for three touchdowns.

* I’ve seen it written that Bruce Arians might not be back next season. That’s hard to believe and would be exceedingly stupid. I understand that Arians gets, say, 85 percent of the play-calls wrong, but look at the development of all the young players on offense. Look what he’s done with a makeshift offensive line. Look what he’s done with Roethlisberger. Oh yeah, the Steelers are 48-22 with him calling the plays.

* Steelers greatest need for next season: cornerback.

* For all the talk of how much the Steelers have had to overcome with the suspension of Roethlisberger and the injuries on the offensive line and to Smith, their problems pale next to woes of the Packers, who have 16 players on injured reserve.

* Guarantee: Which ever teams wins, at least one of its player and probably more will say, ``No one gave us a chance.’’

* If the Steelers get to open the 2011 NFL season on a Thursday night at Heinz Field, which team would you like to see as their opponent?

* It’s not fair to compare the linebackers on this team’s 3-4 defense with the linebackers in the 4-3 defense of the 1970s. But this group of James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior and Lawrence Timmons has the edge over the excellent Super Bowl XXX unit of Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Levon Kirkland and Chad Brown.

* Steelers, 30-27.

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02-03-2011, 04:06 PM
It was his team the last time around as well; the "it was Bill Cowher's team" BS is just that, BS. some people just hated Tomlin from day one and were going to make any excuse to mitigate his achievements.

It's really a shame, because, by all accounts Tomlin has stepped into the role of coach of the Steelers and ambassador for Pittsburgh as if he were born and raised in Pittsburgh. Steeler fans should be thankful, not vengeful, because their guy didn't get hired.


Yep!!! The only people who didn't recognize that were haters who couldn't get over that one of Cowher's little boys didn't get the job. Tomlin had his stamp and attitude all over that last team too. He brought in a completely new mindset from day 1. It has been a big improvement.

02-03-2011, 04:34 PM
It was his team the last time around as well; the "it was Bill Cowher's team" BS is just that, BS. some people just hated Tomlin from day one and were going to make any excuse to mitigate his achievements.

It's really a shame, because, by all accounts Tomlin has stepped into the role of coach of the Steelers and ambassador for Pittsburgh as if he were born and raised in Pittsburgh. Steeler fans should be thankful, not vengeful, because their guy didn't get hired.


Yep!!! The only people who didn't recognize that were haters who couldn't get over that one of Cowher's little boys didn't get the job. Tomlin had his stamp and attitude all over that last team too. He brought in a completely new mindset from day 1. It has been a big improvement.

I don't know if it's an improvement, but it's different and it works, so, that's all good by me. I have nothing but the highest regard for Bill Cowher as a coach as well. Except for a handful of years where the Steelers weren't above .500 the Steelers competed year in and year out and I'm good with that. I'd hate to be a team that wins a Super Bowl, get to an AFCCG or get into the playoffs and then suck for 7, 8, or even 10 years.

The worst record the Steeler have had over the past 40 years is 6-10 (I think), that's two lousy games away from being average at 8-8. There's a laundry list of teams that are worse than 6-10 more often than they are better than 6-10.


02-03-2011, 04:56 PM
Agreed with Pap and Ovi. It was Tomlin's team the first time around. :wink:

02-03-2011, 07:11 PM
It was his team the last time around as well; the "it was Bill Cowher's team" BS is just that, BS. some people just hated Tomlin from day one and were going to make any excuse to mitigate his achievements.

It's really a shame, because, by all accounts Tomlin has stepped into the role of coach of the Steelers and ambassador for Pittsburgh as if he were born and raised in Pittsburgh. Steeler fans should be thankful, not vengeful, because their guy didn't get hired.


:Clap :Clap :Clap :Cheers

02-03-2011, 07:51 PM
If the Pittsburgh Steelers hadn't been my favorite team since I was a little kid, Mike Tomlin would make them very likeable to me. He is a fantastic ambassador for this team.

I remember walking through LAX and seeing the report that Cowher was leaving and being so bummed. As the search came about, the Steelers site showed profiles on the candidates and I seriously thought that Tomlin was nothing more than a Rooney Rule candidate so that they could hire Whiz. Man, am I glad to be wrong about that one!

02-04-2011, 01:25 AM
Updated: February 3, 2011

The journey to meet Mike Tomlin
Seven perspectives of a man who, for some, isn't known all that well

By Elizabeth Merrill


Mike Tomlin will lead his Steelers against the Packers on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. ET.

FORT WORTH, Texas -- This can't be a Mike Tomlin profile. The subject is too athletic to chase, especially with an inch of ice on the ground, and, quite frankly, isn't interested. See the PR guy with the hurried look on his face standing beside Tomlin? He's there to limit the questions, which are fruitless anyway.

The measure of a coach's success in Pittsburgh is often gauged by how well he blends in -- how little he's noticed -- and perhaps the best compliment Tomlin would accept is that nothing in the City of Bridges has changed. January coughs its last breaths of frozen air, February creeps in and the Steelers are back in the Super Bowl. It's expected. It's what drove Tomlin in his first days on the job four years ago, passing by those five Lombardi trophies on the way to meeting rooms, visualizing a batch of his own.


Tomlin is going to his second Super Bowl in three seasons.

And that's about as far as he goes. Tomlin exits up the auditorium steps after a Wednesday news conference, in black warm-ups, a gray vest and white sneakers -- young, 38, and full of energy like the men he coaches. He does not stop for cappuccino with reporters. Mike Tomlin reveals himself in glimpses, and only when he wants to.

"He's not a self-promoter, that's for sure," said Matt Kelchner, an old friend who recruited Tomlin to play at the College of William & Mary two decades ago. "He's always said to me, 'I just want to coach football … That's what my life is. I'm not interested in a lot of other malarkey.' That's just the way he is."

But it's Super Bowl week, which means there is a great demand for malarkey, in 2,000 words or more. Tomlin is going for Pittsburgh's seventh Lombardi trophy and the second of his own. In honor of that, here are seven perspectives of a man who's savvy enough to keep you guessing and smart enough to stay out of the way.

The best friend
The first stop on this journey to find Mike Tomlin's inner being is Bethlehem, Pa. Terry Hammons is there, and he has all night to talk. Another snowstorm has socked the East Coast, and Hammons is cooped up in his basement practicing his putting.

He has known Tomlin since college, when they were teammates at William & Mary and fraternity brothers and pledged Kappa Alpha Psi. He has seen the lengths Tomlin goes to for the sake of keeping secrets. At his core, Tomlin always wanted to be known as a jock. He hated when people talked about how smart he was and reportedly destroyed one of those "My kid is an honor roll student" bumper stickers that his mother proudly displayed when he was a teen.


Tomlin was a receiver at the College of Wiliam & Mary.

"He's what I would refer to as a closet nerd," Hammons said. "He doesn't let on how intelligent he is. Even when we were in college, he used to read the newspaper every morning. I didn't know anybody our age who did that."

Tomlin used to tease Hammons about how Hammons always had his nose in a book and thought up a nickname for him: Poem Boy. But it was Tomlin who'd disappear during finals week, cramming until dawn. His mom wanted him to be a lawyer, friends say. That's the path he appeared to be headed when he left his home in Newport News, Va., and traveled 20 minutes to attend William & Mary.

Football seemed to capture his best qualities. He could motivate anyone, make him feel as if he could do anything. Hammons and Tomlin were wide receivers in college. Tomlin was 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds; Hammons stood 5-6.

But man, was he confident. Tomlin made him that way. They called themselves "The Bomb Squad" and thought up a little slogan. We might not be the best wide receiving corps in the nation, but we think we are.

Tomlin and Hammons used to love to watch old NFL Films back then. They wore out the Jim Brown tape. And on game days, they'd prance and do their own pregame routine, just as Brown did. They wore half-shirts just to show off their abs. The trash talk flowed.

"He helped me survive out there," Hammons said. "He'd say, 'Hey, Ham, be careful out there. It's a dangerous game, and you're a small man.'"

And that was all it took to motivate Hammons. They've stayed close all these years, even though their jobs have taken them in completely different directions. Hammons is an executive at a global industrial gas company; Tomlin is simply global.

But sometimes, you wouldn't know it. Tomlin still prank-calls Hammons at work, and it's 1994 all over again. Sometimes, he says he'll tell Hammons' assistant that his father is on the line. Or, he'll say it's Col. Sam Trautman, and Hammons knows it's just Mike being silly. Trautman is the name of a character in one of their favorite movies, "Rambo."

"Sometimes when I'm watching his press conferences, I have to chuckle," Hammons said. "He's very, very serious. I know he's obviously good at what he does, and he takes his job very seriously.

"But the guy, he's hilarious. If you just watched his press conferences, you wouldn't have a clue. You're just seeing one slice of a very complicated individual."

The beard
The unique thing about Pittsburgh, well, one of many unique things, is that coaching changes happen about once a generation. Chuck Noll was hired in 1969 and ran the team until '91; Bill Cowher held the reins from 1992 to 2006.


"He just has a great understanding of his team," defensive end Brett Keisel says.
When Cowher retired, it was assumed that the Rooney family, an anchor of NFL stability, would hire in-house. There were two seasoned and well-liked assistants up for the job in Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt. They were considered front-runners. The Rooneys picked Tomlin, who was 34 with just one season as a defensive coordinator in Minnesota under his belt.

The news was a jolt to veteran players like defensive end Brett Keisel.

"Initially," Keisel said. "But Mr. Dan Rooney … I was eating lunch one day, and he came down. He asked me, 'Have you met the new coach yet? You're really going to like him.' And he's right. I really do.

"He just has a great understanding of his team. He talks to us a lot. He asks the veterans what we need. He understands the makeup of this team, and I think that's what great coaches do. When it's time to push us, he pushes us. And when it's time to pull the reins back, he pulls the reins back."

The first training camp was brutal. Tomlin scheduled twice as many two-a-days as Cowher. He told reporters he wanted a unified group that was ready for battle. He was testing the players.

His first team went 10-6 and made the playoffs, then Tomlin did a little more pulling than pushing. He relates to his players. He knows them. Recently, Tomlin joined Keisel and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in growing solidarity beards for their push to the Super Bowl. Keisel's is so long that it attracts large crumbs and odd looks; Tomlin's is stylish and neat.

"Brett Keisel talked me into this," he said. "I can't wait 'til it's over."

The old man
If you want to know how Tomlin can relate to anybody, you go to D!ck LeBeau. The Steelers' defensive coordinator is 73 years old but is fit and strong and looks as if he could kick your ass. He played for Woody Hayes at Ohio State, was drafted by the Cleveland Browns 13 years before Tomlin was born and played alongside guys with cool names like D!ck "Night Train" Lane.

LeBeau sits at a table Wednesday, and reporters lean in to hear him softly talk about how his defense plans to attack the Green Bay Packers. They stick their microphones next to his face because he's so quiet. LeBeau is considered one of the greatest defensive gurus of all time, and he's asked how a young man and an old man make it all work.


When he became the Steelers' head coach, Tomlin kept much of the previous coaching staff, including defensive coordinator D!ck LeBeau.

"I'm still here," LeBeau said. "So I guess it's worked."

It's worked because Tomlin recognized what he had. Most new coaches clean house and hire their own, but Tomlin retained a good chunk of Cowher's staff. He kept LeBeau even though they have different defensive philosophies. Tomlin, a Tony Dungy disciple, ran a 4-3 defense; LeBeau runs a 3-4.

He trusted LeBeau so much that he kept his scheme.

They met in Cincinnati years ago, when Tomlin was a college assistant for the Bearcats and LeBeau was with the Bengals. In those precious moments of free time, the young man and the old man would talk about defense.

Age has never affected their chemistry, LeBeau said. And he never questioned the Rooneys' decision.

"He had a tough job following Bill Cowher, who was a great, great coach," LeBeau said. "I think the best thing Mike did was he didn't try to be Bill Cowher. He was Mike Tomlin."

The other coordinator
Bruce Arians is a little more direct.

"I knew this was a rising star," Arians said. "And some people would get real jealous about that. But when you're lucky enough to see one and work with one, you count your blessings because you get to go to Super Bowls."

Arians, another Cowher holdover, is the Steelers' offensive coordinator. The first time they met, Arians was struck by Tomlin's intelligence. He's so smart that he occasionally says things that go over Arians' head. But he never loses anyone.

"He can communicate at any level," Arians said, "whether it's with the president of the United States or some dumb-ass rookie."

Sometimes, Arians says, the most impressive action is inaction. Tomlin, like anyone in the NFL, has an ego. But he put it aside in favor of progress. He listens, Arians said. To him, to LeBeau and to veterans who are just a few years younger than he is.

"He has a message, and he's got a course," Arians said. "And he ain't getting off that course. He knows what it takes, and he's going to stay there. And very few young coaches have that."

The old school
The fire, really, started at William & Mary. Tomlin's team had winter workouts, at 6 a.m., in January, outdoors. One morning, it was so cold and miserable that the track had to be shoveled before the team could run.

"I remember everybody came traipsing in there, and they were pretty long in the face," Kelchner said. "Mike, he was all fired up. He was jumping around. I don't remember what he said, and I probably shouldn't repeat it. But he had everybody excited, and guys did their work."


Tomlin became the youngest coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory when Pittsburgh won Super Bowl XLIII against the Arizona Cardinals.

Tomlin was always doing things like that. William & Mary, the alumni will tell you, is a prestigious academic institution. Just being a student there is an up-at-dawn, late-night cram-session commitment. Tomlin never seemed to be overwhelmed.

When he signed his letter of intent to go there, his mother cried. She was so proud of him. The Tidewater area is a hotbed for talent and trouble, producing Michael Vick and Allen Iverson. It swallows up the meek. By an early age, it was clear that Tomlin was going places, and people would follow him.

"Once he became a coordinator in the NFL," William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said, "I told a number of people, 'Just watch. He's going to be a head coach. And they're going to be blown away.' He's just an all-around good person, and he doesn't try to be something that he's not."

A few years ago, Tomlin went back to his alma mater to give the commencement speech. It must've been such a kick for Tomlin. Prince Charles, James Baker and Tom Brokaw have spoken at commencements in the past.

Tomlin got in front of the crowd and spoke of teamwork. Of having confidence in yourself. Earl Granger, a former classmate who works in fundraising at William & Mary, said the crowd was captivated.

"People were pumped up when he left."

The draft pick
Flash forward to last week. It was the last day of workouts in Pittsburgh, and Tomlin scheduled a walk-through practice. At the last minute, he switched gears, canceled practice and took the team to Dave & Buster's. And for a couple of hours, they played pool and shuffleboard and video games like kids.


Linebacker Lawrence Timmons says Tomlin knows how to get his players "prepared for his game plan."

"He knows how to get his guys geeked up and prepared for his game plan," Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons said. "He also knows about letting everybody have fun and be themselves. That's what I think makes him such a great coach and different from the others."

Tomlin and Timmons have a history. They came in together. With the first pick of Tomlin's first draft, he snagged Timmons in 2007. Timmons calls Tomlin Mike T. He says he'll do anything for his coach.

When Timmons arrived in Pittsburgh, Tomlin called him into his office and took 100 pounds of pressure off his shoulders. You're young, Tomlin told him, and you're coming in to a place where everything is on the highest of pedestals. Don't worry about the expectations. Don't worry about starting right away.

Timmons says Tomlin has a handful of mottoes, but there's one he uses the most. "The standard is the standard."

What does it mean?

"It's like us going into this game," Timmons said. "You're the No. 1 defense. Play like the No. 1 defense."

The backup
So it's Wednesday, and the game already has been regurgitated in several languages by thousands of publications. Another news conference starts, and the media swoop in on the usual suspects. Tyler Grisham sits at a lonely table with the injured and the scout-team fodder. Steelers die-hards know Grisham. The baby-faced receiver played in four games last year and spent 2010 on the practice squad. But he's wearing his No. 19 uniform today, in large part so people will know who he is, and he has something to say about Mike Tomlin.

Tomlin makes the rookies stand up on the first day and introduce themselves to the team. Last year, Grisham decided to crack a funny. He gave his name and vitals, and said he's worth $1,500, because that's what his signing bonus was.

Tomlin chuckled and approached Grisham, which scared the rookie at first. He put his arm around Grisham. He cracked a joke, too.

The thing about Tomlin, Grisham says, is that he creates a locker room where everyone is important, everyone is family. One day, he saw Grisham and asked how his Maggie was doing. Grisham was floored that he knew his wife's name.

The week is getting shorter, and the lines around Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward are getting longer, so maybe it's up to the polite young man at the empty table, who's available, to answer. Who is Mike Tomlin?

Grisham stopped and thought about it. When Tomlin pumps up the players, really gets going, he reminds him of Denzel Washington in some of his very best movies. He's passionate, and everybody listens. When Tomlin is excited, he can be emotional and giddy, just like them.

"I guess no reporter gets to know that side of Coach," Grisham said. "It's pretty simple. Like he tells us, too many rules will get you beat. We're here to win, we're here to be professionals. We're here to be champions."

Elizabeth Merrill is a senior writer for ESPN.com. She can be reached at merrill2323@hotmail.com.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/ ... id=6083284 (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2010/columns/story?id=6083284)

02-04-2011, 02:39 PM
Updated: February 4, 2011

Mike Tomlin says Friday a routine day

Associated Press

DALLAS -- Mike Tomlin stood stone-faced behind the Lombardi Trophy as a few dozen cameras fired away.

"Smile, Mike!" one photographer yelled out.

"Nah," the Pittsburgh Steelers coach said without a hint of a grin on another cold, snowy Friday in Big D.

He eventually cracked a smile, but this is serious stuff for Tomlin as the Steelers go for the seventh Super Bowl title in franchise history Sunday.


I'm a robot. I'm just going to ride the wave.

-- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin

"We're putting the finishing touches, of course, on our plan here," Tomlin said in a sparsely attended final media session that lasted barely five minutes. "It's been a good week, but of course, like the Green Bay Packers, I'm sure we're all getting a little antsy and getting ready to play."

Tomlin will keep an eye on his guys during the next few days to make sure they remain even-keeled with so much at stake.

But what about the 38-year-old coach who could be hoisting that trophy for the second time in his four seasons?

"I'm a robot," Tomlin said. "I'm just going to ride the wave."

And it could carry him to a special place among NFL coaches. He would become only the 13th head coach in league history to win more than one ring.

"It's awesome, it really is," Tomlin said of the opportunity. "It's humbling, it's inspiring, it motivates you. It's all those things. I think fortunately for us, we have what you can't buy, which is legacy -- which is unbelievable standard and expectation and all those great things."

The Steelers had a final full practice at TCU set for later Friday, and then Tomlin said the players would have some free time at night to spend with family and friends. Then, they'll have a "dress rehearsal" Saturday in their last practice, going through what Tomlin called "a mock game" before the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium.

Tomlin said rookie Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey, dealing with a high left ankle sprain, needs to practice Friday in order to play. Pouncey received treatment on the ankle while his teammates practiced Thursday.

He was injured early in the Steelers' 24-19 victory over the New York Jets in the AFC Championship Game nearly two weeks ago. Pouncey needed crutches and wore a walking boot on his left foot as he got off the team plane Monday in Dallas, but didn't need either during the players' final media session Thursday.

If he can't play, Doug Legursky would make his first NFL start at center.

The Dallas-Fort Worth area has been hit by several inches of snow and subfreezing temperatures since the Steelers arrived, but Tomlin said it hasn't bothered the team.

"We're kind of used to inclement weather," Tomlin said. "At least from my perspective, it hasn't changed how we've worked at all."

In a few days, Tomlin could be back in chilly Pittsburgh with another Super Bowl trophy -- and smiling.

"It's the pinnacle," he said of being a champion. "Thirty-two teams start this journey with the same intentions. So, of course, you're overcome with emotions. Great feelings of satisfaction, but also humility because you realize that there are probably a lot of people that are deserving, to be quite honest with you."

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/ ... id=6089718 (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2010/news/story?id=6089718)

02-06-2011, 12:10 AM
February 5 2011

Mike Tomlin Is Super Enough to Push Steelers Past Packers

By Terence Moore


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will win Super Bowl XLV on Sunday for so many reasons, but among the biggest is that they have Mike Tomlin, and the Green Bay Packers don't.

Tomlin is a miracle.

Oh, and he can coach.

With eyes glowing, Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke said of his franchise's new Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher, "He knows how to push buttons. He knows how to get us going. He has a certain message for us every week, and he pounds that message in every day."

There were those moments two seasons ago, for instance, when Tomlin kept spurring the Steelers to a world championship during just his second year on the job. It began with Ben Roethlisberger, especially after the Steelers reached the ultimate game. Since quarterback play is the key to winning Super Bowls, Tomlin knew he had to make Big Ben as potent mentally as he already was physically.

So Tomlin got an index card, and he wrote "Terry Bradshaw 4" and "Joe Montana 4" to signify the number of Super Bowl rings those quarterbacks own. And Tomlin added, "Where do you fit in that group?" before he placed the card in Roethlisberger's locker.

Final score: Arizona Cardinals 23, Steelers 27.

Roethlisberger was as courageous as Bradshaw and as clutch as Montana near the end by leading the Steelers 88 yards before firing the clinching touchdown pass in the final seconds.

We're back to Tomlin, with Roethlisberger glowing and saying, "He's a player's coach, and you know he's a good motivator, but he doesn't try to give you that 'Win one for the Gipper' type of speech. He knows how to let us motivate ourselves and be professionals."

It's everything about Tomlin that makes him significant. It's his eyes that are intimidating yet comforting. It's his voice that makes you want to grab a pair of shoulder pads and slam into something. It's his mannerisms that say he is confident in his ability but not overly cocky.

It's his ability to channel his mentor more often than not.

We're talking about Tony Dungy, the former Indianapolis Colts icon of a coach, who was the same with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where Tomlin was all eyes and ears as Dungy's secondary coach.

"I am very conscious of coach Dungy's influence in terms of how I do my job," said Tomlin, who is black, as is Dungy, who became the first black coach ever to win a Super Bowl before he retired in 2009. "He is a servant leader. He tries to lead through service, and I do the same. I learned that from him in providing the men what they need to be great."

Great. Remember that word.

Mike McCarthy isn't bad, by the way. He's efficient, and he's respected, and he's got a voice with the intensity of Lombardi, which works for any NFL coach, but definitely for one with the Packers.

It's just that, at 38, and with a chance to grab a second world championship after only four years running the Steelers, and given his ability to inspire those around him without even opening his mouth ("Oh, so much swagger. So much swagger," said Steelers offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu), Tomlin already is good heading for great.

This actually makes no sense.

Steelers veteran wide receiver Hines Ward shook his head with a four-year-old memory, then said, "The Mike Tomlin pick, it came out of left field. Nobody expected that. We thought we were going to hire within, probably Russ (Grimm, a Steelers assistant coach at the time). That's what a lot players thought. When they named Mike Tomlin, a lot of people really didn't know Mike Tomlin."

That's because all of those people were normal, and they were using common sense. I mean, who would know much about a 34-year-old guy back then who was just finishing his first year as the defensive coordinator of a Minnesota Vikings team that had several players older than himself? He was with Dungy in Tampa before that, but he mostly spent his early coaching career as a college assistant among the obscure likes of VMI, Memphis and Arkansas State before heading to Cincinnati.

Only the Rooneys could find sunshine during a coaching search when others were seeing just clouds.

The Rooneys are the Steelers' legendary owners, and in 1969, they shocked reality by picking the obscure Noll at 37. After three losing seasons that began with a 1-13 finish, he led the Steelers to a dynasty that produced four Super Bowl winners.

Noll retired after the 1991 season, and along came Cowher at 34, who ended his 15 years in Pittsburgh with eight division titles, six AFC championship game appearances, two Super Bowl trips and a world title.

Cowher retired after the 2006 season. A bunch of interviews followed, including those with Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt, another Steelers assistant coach at the time who later became head coach of the Cardinals. Then, as Art Rooney II once told me, "After the first time we talked to Mike (Tomlin), we knew we had the guy we wanted."

This is the same Art Rooney II, whose grandfather, Art, founded the franchise, and whose father, Dan, led the family business until he gave the keys to Art III after becoming the U.S. ambassador to Ireland.

Art II saw in Tomlin what his father saw in Cowher and what his grandfather saw in Noll.

Mostly, there is what Tomlin sees in himself.

"Every day when I go to work, I don't think about things I have to do," Tomlin said. "I think about the things I can do to make my men successful. So I have a servant's mentality in terms of how I approach my job, and I get that from Coach Dungy. I am not consciously trying to do anything of that nature. If I am able to provide a positive example of influence for a young man or a young coach, that's great."

That word keeps following Tomlin around.



02-06-2011, 01:08 AM
The first time they met, Arians was struck by Tomlin's intelligence. He's so smart that he occasionally says things that go over Arians' head.

Why am I not surprised by this? :wink:

02-06-2011, 10:12 AM
Tomlin is a great coach.

I've heard dozens of Vikings fans up here in MN tell me how they badly messed up not keeping Tomlin in MN. They ended up with Chili and a mess.

:tt1 :tt1 :tt1 :tt1 :tt1 :tt1 :tt1

02-06-2011, 10:42 AM
The first time they met, Arians was struck by Tomlin's intelligence. He's so smart that he occasionally says things that go over Arians' head.

Why am I not surprised by this? :wink:

While it's funny because we all question Arians' intelligence at times- it also shows a side of Arians that is very commendable- the ability to poke fun at himself, not think he's above his station, and know his limitations.

02-06-2011, 11:30 AM
The first time they met, Arians was struck by Tomlin's intelligence. He's so smart that he occasionally says things that go over Arians' head.

Why am I not surprised by this? :wink:

While it's funny because we all question Arians' intelligence at times- it also shows a side of Arians that is very commendable- the ability to poke fun at himself, not think he's above his station, and know his limitations.

Arians hate almost has become a knee jerk reaction for some. We aren't at these past two Super Bowls if Arians had not adjusted the offense to take advanatage of the evolving NFL rules favoring a passing game. If we still had Cowher-ball we aren't here right now.