View Full Version : Tomlin maintains Steelers' work ethic, succeeds

01-10-2009, 08:51 AM
Tomlin maintains Steelers' work ethic, succeeds

Fri Jan 9, 4:26 pm ET

By Albert Breer -

PITTSBURGH -- Bill Cowher averaged 10 wins a year in his 15 seasons at the helm of the Steelers.

Mike Tomlin's averaged 11 in his first two campaigns in Pittsburgh.

And that's hardly where the similarities end between the two.

This isn't about style. Each man has his own -- Cowher the fiery sergeant unafraid to let his rage spill on to the team, Tomlin the cool commander with the kind of presence to make players sit up straight.

It's about substance. It's about results. It's about subjugating ego, striking on a successful formula, and giving a team a roadmap to glory.

Which is why, as the Steelers go into the playoffs with 12 wins and the No. 2 seed in the AFC bracket, the guys in the trenches will tell you that their foxhole is the same as it ever was.

"It's the same feel," said fourth-year corner Bryant McFadden. "It's January football, everyone's not participating in this, and the excitement we have in something that just comes, we're closer to the step we're intending to reach."

And therein lies the success of Tomlin's first two years leading one of the NFL's brand-name franchises.

In a spot where so many coaches are worried about putting their own stamp on a club, installing their own "system" and pushing change for the sake of change, Tomlin recognized a good thing and stuck with it.

He spent all six of his years as an NFL assistant coaching defense in the Tampa-2 system of Monte Kiffin and Tony Dungy. Its success over the years gave Tomlin a truck full of reasons to believe in it.

So it would've hardly come as a surprise if Tomlin had come into Pittsburgh and blown up "Blitzburgh." Just like it wouldn't have been shocking if, when Ken Whisenhunt got the Arizona job during that winter of 2007, Tomlin brought in an offensive coordinator he had history with during his stops in Tampa or Minnesota.

Instead, he trusted Dick LeBeau to continue to run his zone-blitzing 3-4 system, and promoted Pittsburgh receivers coach Bruce Arians to run the offense. He knew he had players, so he kept them too, and kept putting them in positions to make them successful.

Nine of the regular starters on the 2006 defense are starters in 2008, the two exceptions being outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, equally effective in the places of Joey Porter and Clark Haggans. There's been more turnover on offense, but only because of injuries and pricy free-agent defections.

And if you watch those guys play, the identity hasn't changed much, which really is the great thing about what Tomlin has done. It's never been about the coach putting his own stamp on the team. It's about winning. Period, end of story.

"It doesn't really matter what coach is in there," said All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu. "Every team, every game, every playoff run has its own unique feel. All of them under coach Cowher were different, just because the team is different every year.

"Coaches change every year, players change every year, so that's what makes everything unique. It doesn't start with the head coach, really."

That's not to say Tomlin hasn't had an impact. Quite the contrary, in fact.

McFadden points to a "swagger" that the 36-year-old brings the team. Veteran linebacker James Farrior adds that Tomlin "does a great job of keeping us focused and keeping us motivated."

But maybe the most profound message that a coach could possibly send was the one that Tomlin's actions delivered -- This is not about me.

In an age when plenty of coaches are pursuing a "genius" label like a horse chasing that unattainable carrot, Tomlin's willingness to work with what's worked has kept the Steeler machine churning.

Practices may be a little different. The schedule isn't the same as it was under Cowher. The voice from the corner office has changed.

There are more differences. Practices, meetings, schedules, all of those things can vary. But the wheel has not been reinvented, and that's why it's kept rolling without many bumps in the road.

He has his own way, which he sticks to. He also has some of the old Steeler ways, which he's stuck to.

"He's not coming in, changing what we did from training camp all the way to now," said veteran corner Deshea Townsend. "And that's how you know his process works, and he trusts and he believes in it. That's a sign of a good coach.

"If he's not changing things, and he knows it works and he believes in what he's saying, then the team believes. That's what we've been doing these last two weeks. What we did during the season, it's the same thing we're doing now. It worked, why change it?"

Sounds easy, right?

Well, Tomlin's "process" and the Steelers' "process" weren't necessarily in concert when the coach arrived 24 months ago.

The fact that they have been since, tells you everything you need to know about the job he's done.

Staff writer Albert Breer covers the NFL for Sporting News. E-mail him at abreer@sportingnews.com.

01-10-2009, 09:50 AM
And if you watch those guys play, the identity hasn't changed much, which really is the great thing about what Tomlin has done. It's never been about the coach putting his own stamp on the team. It's about winning. Period, end of story.

that is what you have to love about coach tomlin. he isnt here to become the next great coach in the nfl, he is here to win.

01-10-2009, 10:17 AM
What a great read mesa - thank you! :drink:

Admittedly, I was a huge Cowher fan and was a little apprehensive about a new coach taking the reigns, but from the day the Steelers FO introduced the Tomlinator as our new HC, I've never looked back or had any regrets. :applaudit::hatsoff:

Coach T isn't all about glitz, glamour and ego. He's all about motivation, dedication, determination and carrying on the winning tradition the Steelers have had for almost four decades and that's my kind of coach! :tt03::tt02:

01-10-2009, 11:48 AM
Tomlin is a great motivator and leader.

I'm not yet sold on his in-game coaching abilities. He made several costly mistakes last year in the wildcard matchup with the Jags, and his clock-management leaves a lot to be desired.

01-10-2009, 01:20 PM
Tomlin is off to a great start in building up his legacy as the next great Steelers HC.