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Old 06-01-2009, 07:39 AM   #1
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Default Pittsburgh Steelers coach believes in NFL-mandated Rooney Rule

Pittsburgh Steelers coach believes in NFL-mandated Rooney Rule
Monday, June 01, 2009
News staff writer

Mike Tomlin didn't need the Rooney Rule. But the Pittsburgh Steelers coach believes the NFL-mandated step in hiring is a great benefit to everyone.

"Here's where it's significant: It slows down the process," said Tomlin. "By that, I mean, it forces people to explore and ask critical questions, to maybe look at some things they weren't interested in pursuing.

"I think if you're interested in doing legitimate, good business, it's a rule or an approach that could be adopted not only by intercollegiate athletics but business on all levels. Because it's about winning."

Tomlin knows a lot about winning, even after just two seasons as the Steelers coach, thanks to a 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

Established in 2003, the Rooney Rule requires NFL teams to interview minority applicants for head coaching opportunities. A bill in the state of Oregon recently proposed a similar rule for colleges in that state. And State Rep. John Rogers recently said he has plans to introduce similar legislation in the state of Alabama.

Tomlin was hired at age 34 by the Steelers in January 2007.

But the Rooney Rule wasn't a factor in his hire. Pittsburgh had already interviewed a minority candidate before interviewing him.

Mike Tomlin was merely the hottest young assistant out there, thanks to stints in Tampa Bay and Minnesota in a meteoric career that began with a graduate assistant's job at VMI.

Tomlin was in Birmingham this weekend for the induction of his assistant head coach, John Mitchell, into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

"He's an unbelievable guy to work for," said the normally stoic Mitchell, who was visibly emotional after Tomlin greeted him at the ceremony with a bear hug.

"Mike's a very intelligent coach ... and a great communicator. It's a joy for me to work for him."

Mitchell, a former Crimson Tide captain and All-American, isn't the only Steelers coach with Bama ties. Offensive coordinator Bruce Arians made two coaching stops in Tuscaloosa. Special teams assistant Amos Jones was a member of back-to-back national championship teams at Alabama in 1978 and 9 and coached under Gene Stallings. Also, former Auburn assistant James Daniel coaches tight ends for the Steelers.

"Mike's a great person. That's a quality I saw in him a few years back as a young football coach at (the University of Cincinnati)," Jones said. "He hasn't changed one bit. And that speaks about his character."

With Jones as his tour guide, Tomlin didn't waste his trip to Birmingham flipping through channels in a hotel room. The duo took a side trip to Pickens County, to see Jones' family farm, then headed to Tuscaloosa for a tour of the UA football complex and facilities guided by Crimson Tide Athletics Director Mal Moore.

In Birmingham, Jones pulled up at Legion Field.

"I'd never been to Legion Field," Tomlin said. "I walked out on the field - it was great to be in a historic place like that."

The coaches topped the whirlwind day with lunch.

I had a slab and a half of ribs over there at Dreamland, Tomlin said. I sopped it up with a few pieces of white bread. It was great.

As good as Pittsburgh was in each of Tomlin's first two seasons, the success didn't surprise anyone.

Most notably, Tomlin.

He knew we were going to win the Super Bowl and he knew we were going to win it early, Jones said. And we're going to try to win another.

For me, it's like going in every day at Alabama, Jones said. You ain't talking about winning the conference. You're talking about winning the Super Bowl.

Tomlin said the Super Bowl title was merely a byproduct of an organization that has won six times, more than any other franchise.

We've got great people who work extremely hard, Tomlin said. I think people put aside selfish ambitions for the good of the group, and this is the fruit of that labor.

I don't feel we won the lottery. I see every day the sacrifices made to bring the dream to fruition.

E-mail: dsegrest@bhamnews.com
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