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Old 01-18-2009, 11:50 PM   #1
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Default Steelers have another championship coach in Tomlin


Steelers have another championship coach in Tomlin
January 18, 2009

Dennis Dillon

PITTSBURGH -- Observations made and opinions formed after watching the Steelers claim the AFC championship and a date with Arizona in Super Bowl 43 two weeks hence with a 23-14 victory over the Ravens at Heinz Field Sunday night.

1. Rooney rules

If the first two seasons are any indication, the Steelers have found themselves another championship coach in Mike Tomlin. While many NFL owners change coaches about as often as they change luxury cars, the Rooney family has had success by sticking with a coach for many years at a time.

Tomlin appears to be following in the footsteps of former Steelers coaches Chuck Noll (four Super Bowl championships) and Bill Cowher (one title) In fact, Tomlin, 36, the NFL's second-youngest head coach when he was hired on Jan. 22, 2007, has set a new pace. He took the Steelers to the Super Bowl after only two seasons. It took Noll six years to guide the Steelers to the Super Bowl, and Cowher didn't get there until his fourth year.

One of the smartest things Tomlin did when he was hired was keep defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and stick with the 3-4 -- even though Tomlin came from a 4-3 background. Under LeBeau, who is in his 50th NFL season as a coach or player, the Steelers finished No. 1 in defense during the regular season. And they gave little ground against the Ravens.

Regardless of what the Steelers do in Super Bowl 43 against Arizona, they look set for a long run of success.
They have a solid nucleus of young players who haven't yet hit their prime, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Willie Parker, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, and linebackers James Harrison (the NFL's defensive player of the year), LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons.

2. End of the road

Joe Flacco became the first rookie QB in NFL history to win two road playoff games, but the Ravens didn't get to the championship game by riding his arm. Although he didn't throw an interception, fumble or take a sack in the first two games, he had pedestrian passing numbers (a combined 20 of 45 for 296 yards and no touchdowns).

The Steelers made him look like, well, the rookie he was. He did not throw well under duress, and his accuracy was off all night. At one point in the third quarter, he was 5-of-19 for 62 yards -- and 22 of those yards came via the legs of rookie running back Ray Rice, who took a short pass and turned it into long gain. He finished 13 of 30 for 141 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions -- the second one returned 40 yards for a touchdown by safety Troy Polamalu.

Despite the promise Flacco displayed during the regular season, he'll need a lot of polishing during the offseason.

3. A big turnaround

There will be no Super Bowl for the Ravens, but they were one of the surprising success stories of the 2008 season. They reversed their record from 2007, going from 5-11 to 11-5, then made a deep run in the playoffs -- winning games at Miami and at top-seeded Tennessee -- despite being the AFC's sixth seed.

It was remarkable progress, especially considering that it was John Harbaugh's first year as a head coach and that the Ravens played the entire season with Flacco, a rookie quarterback from Division I-AA Delaware. Although Flacco didn't exactly dazzle anyone during the postseason, Baltimore's future with him at quarterback looks good. And with such players as safety Ed Reed, nose tackle Haloti Ngata and cornerback Samari Rolle in place, their defense should continue to dominate.

One of the things the Ravens will have to determine quickly is which veteran players they want to keep. Among their key unrestricted free agents: linebackers Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Bart Scott; strong safety Dawan Landry; fullback Lorenzo Neal; and long-time kicker Matt Stover.

4. Rough edges

The Steelers drafted former Texas wide receiver Limas Sweed in the second round last year, thinking they were getting a big receiver who could be a mismatch against smaller defensive backs, particularly in the red zone. But you'd have to label his first season a big disappointment.

Sweed, who caught only six passes for 64 yards during the regular season, replaced Hines Ward in Sunday's championship game after Ward suffered a knee injury. Sweed had an opportunity to make a rare big play late in the first half, when he got behind Baltimore's coverage and Roethlisberger tossed him a perfect pass. But Sweed dropped the ball at the 5 yard line, and what looked like a 50-yard scoring play turned into just a long incompletion.

5. Scary moment

Ravens running back Willie McGahee and Steelers safety Ryan Clark had the mother of all collisions after McGahee caught a pass with 3:29 left in the game. The force of the hit caused a fumble that Pittsburgh recovered. Trainers and players from both benched rushed onto the field immediately.

Clark got up on his own and was able to walk off the field, albeit slowly, without assistance. Medical personnel from both teams attended to McGahee for several minutes before the Ravens player was lifted on to a stretcher and carted off the field. McGahee's head snapped back at impact, but he appeared to move his arm as he left the field. A few minutes later, the Heinz Field press box announcer informed the media that McGahee had movement in both his arms and legs but was in severe neck pain.

Dennis Dillon is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at ddillon@sportingnews.com.
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Old 01-19-2009, 06:45 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers have another championship coach in Tomlin

Steve Mariucci summed it up perfectly last night on the NFL Network. He stated that Mike Tomlin has that "it" factor. Mike Tomlin will be another very successful Steelers HC. And by the way he is now the youngest HC to take his team to the Super Bowl. Big congrats to Tomlin.
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