View Full Version : Steelers warming to Tomlin

06-14-2007, 06:07 AM

Thursday, June 14, 2007

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The arrival of any new boss generates anxiety in the workforce. The job Mike Tomlin walked into as the new Steelers coach carried its own predicaments.

He stepped into a situation where few 34-year-olds tread. He released one of their most popular and well-known players, fined another because he skipped a mandatory practice after blasting the team for not treating him fairly in contract negotiations, and listened to his quarterback tell him over dinner that he had to gain the trust of his team.

That does not mention the fact that he replaced Bill Cowher, the longest-tenured coach at 15 years in the NFL, and that the team he would run was one year removed from winning a Super Bowl.

As another former Steelers coach, Chuck Noll, often said, if it were easy, anyone could do it.

"A lot of guys," receiver Hines Ward said yesterday, "were griping early: 'Ah, we used to do it like this, we used to do it like this.'

"No question, when you have nine, 10 years with one guy, you're going to miss him. We all miss coach Cowher, but we can't play this game forever. Players, coaches, come and go, and you have to move on."

That, Ward said, is precisely what the Steelers are doing. Today is their final day of spring practices before they break until July 23 for training camp. Their skepticism about their new coach may not have disappeared, but he is winning them over.

"We've moved on and guys are starting to buy" into it, Ward said. "When he first got here, you sat back and really didn't say anything. Now, his door is open, and he's more than willing to listen to things."

Ward, one of the biggest critics of the release of linebacker Joey Porter in March, said he has walked through Tomlin's door often.

"I'm kind of like the veteran, the voice of democracy," Ward said. "He's been open to a lot conversation."

Among the suggestions Ward brought to Tomlin was for the players to have a day or two on the field this spring without wearing helmets. Thus, Hat Day was born. They had one in minicamp and will wear baseball caps again today.

Cowher took the team on a golf outing in the spring. Tuesday, Tomlin, who does not golf, took them bowling.

"It's about unity," Ward said. "He liked to pair up people who had some differences over the offseason. He put them together, and we came together as a group."

Guard Alan Faneca, unhappy over his contract situation, has not turned out for their spring practices except for one minicamp weekend, and even skipped one of those mandatory practices. He spoke out against the team, but not against his new coach. There hardly has been a complaint uttered publicly about Tomlin.

"Expectations are still high," Ward said. "I know a lot of pressure would be put on any coach who would have come in here. You're following two guys, coach Noll and coach Cowher, I mean those are two legendary coaches. ...

"For us, last year was a disappointment, coming off a Super Bowl year and not making the playoffs. Last year just totally stunk. A lot of guys are happy to get back and make sure what happened last year doesn't happen again this year and try to make sure we get back into that playoff run."

Not that there has not been some grousing among the players. Some can't stand the digital scoreboard clock that appeared on the sideline at practice and counts down different sessions. "This damn clock right here," is how Ward described it yesterday. Others aren't happy when they appear in The News, a list Tomlin publicizes at meetings of those who have made certain errors.

"It can be good and bad," said Ward. "It's just constructive criticism. It's not calling you out. If an offensive lineman jumps offside, we need to rectify that and make sure it doesn't happen."

If a quarterback throws an interception, he may find himself in The News. Ward appeared for spiking a ball after a catch, a penalty next season if done on the field and not after a touchdown.

"Really, it's a teaching technique," Ward said.

Generally, however, the players have warmed up to their new coach this spring.

"We know what's expected out of him," Ward said. "You get a good feel. He's still a player's coach ... a good guy, he's a straight shooter."

This is the attitude I love to see coming out of these minicamps:

"For us, last year was a disappointment, coming off a Super Bowl year and not making the playoffs. Last year just totally stunk. A lot of guys are happy to get back and make sure what happened last year doesn't happen again this year and try to make sure we get back into that playoff run."

These guys need to keep that fresh in their minds and realize that now is the time to ammends for a dismal 2006 campaign by coming back strong in 2007 and taking the NFL by storm. Seize the opportunity that this team has with all the talent we have and ride Tomlin's coat tails right into the playoffs again.

06-14-2007, 11:25 AM
What's the story behind the digital clock... I don't get it? :dunno: Any how, knowing the team is coming together and warming up to the new coach sounds very promising, plus the fact that they missed the playoffs last year should give them a little added edge and help make Tomlin's debut that much better!

06-14-2007, 07:16 PM
Im guessing it's just a way to countdown the time between sessions but perhaps the players don't like it because it's a distraction or something :dunno:

One things for sure, when you screw up Tomlin isn't afraid to call you out !

06-14-2007, 08:21 PM
1 thing the clock shows, is that Tomlin seems to be a very organized person.

Iron City South
06-14-2007, 09:51 PM
Faneca sounds like a real bitter prick ... I hope his teammates issue a code red on him while he's sleeping (blanket party time!) :chair:b

BlacknGold Bleeder
06-15-2007, 12:13 AM
I like that the players seem to be giving Tomlin a chance ...I like the "news" thing that Tomlin does, everything I read about it says that nobody is exempt from it and he treats none of them differently. Hopefully Faneca will show up at camp to play ball like he is capable of, keep his mouth shut and not be a distraction. :tt02::tt02: