Steelers' Tomlin ready for heat of spotlight
By John Harris
Saturday, September 8, 2007
The light won't suddenly switch on for Mike Tomlin in his Steelers coaching debut Sunday against the Cleveland Browns. That's because he's already in regular-season mode.
"Hopefully, it won't be different at all,'' Tomlin said. "I took the preseason games very seriously and put myself in game situations and decision-making situations. I approached August the same way I intend to approach September.''
Tomlin said he won't change his sideline demeanor and consciously become more animated or demonstrative, but expect his emotions to run higher now because you play to win the game.
Everything he does will be compared with former coach Bill Cowher who, by the way, picked the Steelers to finish third in the AFC North in his new role as a television analyst.
If Tomlin wins, as the rumor goes, it will be because he did it with Cowher's players.
If he loses, well, it's his fault, of course.
This week, for the first time, Tomlin provided some insight into his coaching methods.
Tomlin talks a good game of football. While stopping short of revealing the Steelers gameplan for Cleveland, he straddled the line between coachspeak and his thought process for when a key moment arises and all eyes are upon the head coach.
Tomlin said he's not one of those coaches who carries a laminated play-calling sheet popularized by Seattle's Mike Holmgren and Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden.
Meaning no sideline glimpses of Tomlin covering his mouth with said play-calling sheet and delivering the Steelers' first 25 offensive plays scripted the night before into the mouthpiece of his headset so the opposing team can't read his lips.
Meaning what exactly?
"I am not interested in being a play-in and play-out play-caller in any phase,'' Tomlin said.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians will orchestrate the offense on game days. Just so you know, Arians will call plays that have been pre-approved by Tomlin.
Arians has carte blanche to mix and match, seize the moment or go plain vanilla when the Steelers have the ball. But Tomlin still has the last word on any play, any time.
What you will see is Tomlin huddling with his coaches before every important decision is made.
Say the Steelers face a fourth-and-goal at the 2.
Arians wants to confuse the defense with a pass, while Tomlin lobbies for a run to establish the line of scrimmage.
Tomlin always gets to break the tie.
"I am more interested in game management. Of course, we will get into situation football, where I am very involved. I will be part of that process,'' Tomlin said.
It's good to be the head coach.
But only when you win.
Tomlin, a former assistant coach, is about to find out how the other half lives.