PHOENIX -- He preaches aggressiveness, and this week Mike Tomlin showed just what that might mean in his new job as the Steelers' head coach.
USAirways, Tomlin said, lost the bag he checked on his direct flight to the NFL meetings in Phoenix from Pittsburgh and gave him the run-around since that occurred Saturday night. Sunday, he was told his bag was in Phoenix and would be delivered to his hotel within four hours. He waited; no bags. He called, again and again.
Monday, Tomlin rode to the airport "to dig it out myself."
"I get over there, and they tell me the bag is not there," Tomlin was saying at breakfast yesterday morning. "I said, 'I've been talking to your call center all weekend, and they said the bag is here.'
"They said, 'I don't care what they told you on the 1-800 number, your bag isn't here.' "
He was offered a $25 voucher on his next flight for his troubles.
"Well, somewhere during the conversation, I see my bag behind her in a pile," Tomlin said. "I said, 'That's my bag!' She said, 'Sir, your bag's not here, the computer says'... I said 'I understand what the computer says, but I'm looking at my bag! It's a black bag, Pittsburgh Steelers. It's my bag.'
"So, I walk around the counter and at that point, she started to get mad. I pulled the tag off and showed her it was my bag. I had to dig it out myself."
Tomlin related that story to a handful of writers gathered around him yesterday as the morning sun popped up in the desert. Perhaps, he did not mean it to be that way, but the narrative served to portray his approach to his job as Steelers coach. He wants to be aggressive, something he has repeated many times since his arrival here.
He also began revealing his plans for the Steelers in 2007 and what he thinks of some of his players. Yesterday, for instance, he publicly committed for the first time to staying with a 3-4 as his base defense next season.
"I know what it does to offenses, I really do," Tomlin said. "It's all about the personnel you have. We have the best 3-4 people in the world, I think. That's what we're going to do."
The more Tomlin looked at the way the Steelers played the 3-4, the more it convinced him to stick with it under coordinator Dick LeBeau rather than try to convert to a 4-3 Tampa 2, the type he coached with the Buccaneers and the Minnesota Vikings.
"To me, I was excited because I came into this league, a mecca, if you will, for the 4-3 defense in the Tampa 2, working with Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin," Tomlin said. "Now, I'm working every day with what I believe to be the mecca for a 3-4. If you look at my growth development as a coach, man, it doesn't get any better than that. To be around Monte Kiffin and Dick LeBeau, I think you guys will agree with that. It doesn't get any better than that."
The most unsettled position on his Steelers defense may be at cornerback, where Ike Taylor has attracted much of the new coach's attention. Taylor, who signed a fat contract extension before the season began, was benched by coach Bill Cowher midway through it. One of Tomlin's big jobs is to salvage him.
"He's big, he's physical, he's fast. That's what I look at," Tomlin said. "What specifically happened last year in terms of his play, it's irrelevant to me.
"He's capable of a lot. He's capable of being a dominant player, and it's important that he embraces that as we move forward. I know that maybe he's disappointed in how he performed last year. Hopefully, that's fuel for him as we approach this year. ... I know he has the physical tools to be an elite corner. Our job and his job is to make sure that happens."
The mirror of that position on offense comes at wide receiver and whether or not the Steelers have the kind of talent at the position to make defenses respect their passing game.
"There are some questions there," Tomlin said. "It's a big year for Santonio [Holmes], of what kind of player he's going to be. He and I have talked quite a bit about that. That jump a player makes from his rookie year to his second year is critical in terms of what kind of career he's going to have. He's made some plays, he's had some success. He needs to move forward.
"I think some of the things that Nate Washington is capable of has been evident, studying the tape. He needs to move forward.
"I like what the group is capable of being. Satisfied? No. Until you get to know me, you'll realize that very rarely am I satisfied. At the same time, I'm not negative."
There also are the ongoing questions about Ben Roethlisberger and Tomlin's emerging relationship with his quarterback.
"He's a unique guy," Tomlin said. "He's in the building, he's taking an active part in the development of the playbook. He's working well with" coordinator Bruce Arians and quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson.
"I studied the personality types in this game and you know a guy who is uniquely talented like him, a competitor, a ridiculous competitor, a very prideful guy. I haven't been surprised in my reactions to him in terms of maybe what I thought him to be in a personality standpoint."