Mike Tomlin: The Heat Is On


Coming off that stinker of an opening game, the pressure is high on the Steelers to rebound and prove to everyone who picked them to repeat to the Super Bowl this year that there will not be a “Super Bowl Hangover” afflicting this team.  While the players share a whole lot of the pressure, given the way they were dominated by the Ravens, the majority of the pressure lies squarely on the shoulders of Mike Tomlin.  Tomlin accepted responsibility for the performance last Sunday during the post-game press conference as well as his Tuesday press conference this week as well he should.  The Steelers above all looked unprepared against the Ravens, and that can only be attributed to coaching.

Mike Tomlin became the Steelers 3rd head coach in 38 years when he was hired in 2007, surprising many around the league and in Pittsburgh.  Coming straight from a defensive coordinator position in Minnesota, he wasn’t considered a serious candidate when he interviewed for the open position left by hometown favorite Bill Cowher, who had held the job since 1992.  But Tomlin won the job and has started with more success than any other coach in Steelers history.

Tomlin proved to everyone last season how capable he is at coaching under adversity.  Starting the season without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers weren’t expected to amount to much but somehow managed a 3-1 record for Ben’s return.  Handling all of the off-season drama that included less preparation time due to the lockout, the pressure to return to the Super Bowl, and the questions of how old the defense is will be Tomlin’s biggest test this season.  While Tomlin did a masterful job at coaching under adversity last season, the 2009 season that followed the Steelers Super Bowl XLIII win will be a constant reminder of how being unprepared and taking teams for granted can come back to bite you in the ass.

It has been said that in the NFL you have to have a short memory as a player in order to put the bad taste of a loss out of your mouth before you face the next team.  As far as the coaches, though, I feel it’s important that they keep their memories intact to avoid making the same mistakes.  Now I’ve already urged Steeler Nation not to panic after the Week 1 loss.  It’s not a time to panic.  I’ll panic if we go 0-4 or 1-5.  With that being said, the home opener against the Seahawks is a huge test for the coaching staff.  My two biggest points I would like to stress to Tomlin this week are:  1. If Farrior is playing solid, please don’t pull him because of some promise made to Foote.  A win is more important than ensuring playing time to someone.  2.  If McFadden is getting beat constantly, than pull him.  Tomlin is a fan of saying the Steelers can’t give up the “splash plays”.  McFadden gave up more “splash plays” against the Ravens than Shamu did at his last show.

As much as I’m criticizing Tomlin for the loss last week, I truly believe he is one of the top head coaches in the NFL and certainly deserving his spot among the short list of top head coaches in Steeler history.  Tomlin has a style about him that is unique but fits in Pittsburgh.  While he doesn’t scream and spit at the players on the sidelines, he’s always available for a chest-bump after a spectacular play.

Never in a million years did I think that I’d love a coach as much as I loved Bill Cowher.  Bill was one of us.  He looked like us, he talked like us, and he was emotional like us.  Bill reminded each Yinzer of a cousin, uncle, or high school buddy they have. On top of all that he was the coach of our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.  He took over for the king, Chuck Knoll, and he took the Steelers through the ups and downs of the 90s and early 2000s.  No one ever imagined an upstart Defensive Coordinator from Minnesota would take the reins of one of the most storied and respected franchises in the NFL as his first head coaching job.

I absolutely do not mean to imply that Tomlin is in the “hot seat” as in he is in danger of losing his job if we do not win this Sunday.  What I mean to point out is that with the kind of loss the Steelers suffered on their opening game, with all the hype that was involved, the majority of the fingers are pointed at Tomlins direction for blame.  Tomlin himself accepted responsibility and therefore put it on himself that his team appeared unprepared and outmatched against our bitter rivals.  I have no doubts in Tomlin’s ability to right this ship rather quickly and set the Steelers back on the path of a return Super Bowl trip.  To show my appreciation for Tomlin and his greater qualities, I’d like to share some of my favorite Tomlinisms (those exerpts from his interviews or press conferences that just warm my soul):


My most recent favorite Tomlinism came from his last press conference discussing the loss to the Ravens and the upcoming game with the Seahawks.

"There’s a fine line between squashing grapes and drinking wine.  Obviously last weekend we were grape squashers."

There is some debate over whether he should have said “making wine” rather than “drinking wine” but either way, this quote deserves to be repeated just for the originality.  The best part about Tomlin is he makes an off-the-wall statement like this but says it in a manner that makes you think it’s a commonly used metaphor, like everybody has been saying it for years.

"Give us a blade of grass, we’ll defend it, or attack. We got a blade there. Good to have a little fortune sometimes."

This was said after the game against Buffalo last season where the Steelers won thanks to a dropped pass in the endzone by Bills WR Stevie Johnson.

"We’re going to be thoughtfully non-rhythmic here"

This quote was in regards to his rotation of the running backs during last season.

I’m sure this season will produce many more gems as far as sound bytes from Tomlin’s press conferences and interviews.  I’m also confident this season will produce the kind of season we all expected it would be before last weeks game.

Follow me on Twitter @Kimmy_KimKimM