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Old 07-22-2007, 01:58 PM   #1
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Default Yeah yeah I know it's PFT

BUT non the less it does make for good reading. 29 hours till start of training camp.


The more we find out about Mike Tomlin, the more we like him.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers show up for training camp on July 23, they'll have a new coach who'll apply a new approach to getting ready for the season.

Mike Tomlin, 35, the former Vikings defensive coordinator who had an immediate impact on a moribund unit in his only season with the team, is ready to put his thumbprint on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He'll do so by firmly putting the Steelers under his thumb.

At a time when many NFL observers justify pervasive contact in offseason workouts by pointing to the fact that training camps aren't nearly as strenuous as they used to be, Tomlin is rolling out 15 days of two-a-days. And he's making no apologies in advance for it. He likely won't be making any apologies during or after, either.

"It will give them something to whine about," Tomlin told Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"I don't know too many active players that like training camp. They probably endure it. I did tell the group . . . that it is going to be extremely tough. I am not apologizing for that. I am going to put that challenge out there to them because in a lot of ways it represents the journey that we are going to face this year."

And just because a guy was at the top of the depth chart at the end of the 2006 season doesn't mean that he's guaranteed to be a starter.

"There are known position battles that everybody knows about, but there are also unknown position battles that are going to develop, because we are going to go into this thing with no preconceived notions," Tomlin said. "We are going to base our decisions on what we see in training camp."

The first year of a new coaching regime is the best time for a fresh look at the roster. As time goes by, every coach develops a comfort level with his roster, and an emotional attachment to his players. This makes it more likely for a starter who has a lackluster camp to still keep his job.

We have a feeling that Tomlin is going to be different. If the new NFL is a year-to-year proposition, then every season is a new opportunity for unproven players to rise, and for established veterans to falter, and for the coaching staff to draw up the depth chart based solely on merit.

That said, we're not sure that different is necessarily better. Can a football coach secure the long-term attention and affection of the locker room without a nucleus of guys who have the coach's back because they know that he has theirs?

But if the modern NFL really is a one-year-at-a-time affair, perhaps each season results in the development of a fresh nucleus, born in the weeks of offseason workouts that serve as the precursor to a training camp that encourages the best to prove it and, in so doing, to become even better.

"Whether people are looking for comfort or if they find comfort in whether or not their jobs are mentioned as one being up for grabs, I hope they don't," Tomlin said. "I hope they understand what we have been saying to them all along. We are going to base our judgments off of what they do and not what they have done or what their reputations are.

"No job is secure," he said. "This is not a security business and if they are looking for security, they need to find a new line of work."

Tomlin already proved his point by giving his stamp of approval to the surprising (on the surface) decision to cut linebacker Joey Porter. After watching film of Porter's performance in 2006, Tomlin was in agreement with the move.

The only potential flaw in Tomlin's approach is the reality of the salary cap. If/when, for example, safety Troy Polamalu secures a long-term deal with guaranteed money north of $10 million, can Tomlin truly put the Tasmanian Devil to No. 2 on the depth chart if he has a bad camp and/or preseason? Or what if a guy like Hines Wards gets benched and becomes a locker-room problem? Does Tomlin cut him without regard to potential cap consequences?

If Tomlin intends to use his 2007 mentality on a year-in, year-out basis, the front-office needs to adopt a Cardinals-style pay-as-you-go approach to the cap, using roster bonuses and other devices aimed at pushing the bulk of a player's "guaranteed" money into the first year of his deal, so that Tomlin and the team will have the flexibility to move on (and move out) if the player is eclipsed in year two or three of his deal by someone else at his position.

Regardless of how it all plays out, it will be compelling to watch. And, frankly, we don't think that it'll take another 15 years to win a Super Bowl under the new boss.
"Until one has loved an animal a part of one's soul remains unawakened." Anatole France
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