By Mike Prisuta
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Mike Tomlin left town with a souvenir, but he did so grudgingly.
"They gave me a game ball in there," Tomlin admitted after exiting the visiting locker room following the Steelers' oh-so-easy, 34-7 victory Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium. "I tried to give it to (defensive coordinator) Dick LeBeau for his birthday, but he wouldn't take it.
"I guess I'm taking it home."
LeBeau turned 70 yesterday and left with a new Rolex watch, which was presented to him by the defensive players.
There was also an acknowledgement of the occasion scribbled onto the greaseboard in the Steelers' locker room: "Happy Birthday Coach Dad, The Next 70 Will Be Even Better."
Tomlin, thus, found himself upstaged by a coach who's twice his age.
There was no Gatorade shower at the end, no carrying Tomlin off the field.
That's the way Tomlin had wanted it all along.
"This isn't my story," he said.
Any emotions the Steelers' first-year head coach might have been feeling relative to his leading a team for the first time in a game that counts will remain private.
That's how Tomlin intends to handle himself while running the Steelers.
He wasn't about to alter his approach after beating Cleveland.
"I don't play the game, I manage it," Tomlin said. "In order to do that, you have to have a little clarity of thought."
Lest you think he's just being coy for the media, consider the observation of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who maintained that as far as Tomlin is concerned, what you see is what you get.
"He doesn't really get rah-rah, spitting, throwing stuff, all that," Roethlisberger said. "He's pretty calm and cool.
"He's that way on the sideline, which is great. He's calm when he's talking to you. You don't have to worry about getting yelled at or spit on, or stuff thrown at you."
Nice to see that former head coach Bill Cowher, while gone, hasn't been forgotten.
As for Tomlin, he let his guard down -- briefly -- only after his postgame media session.
In the visiting locker room and in the presence of Steelers chairman Dan Rooney and Steelers president Art Rooney, Tomlin beamed momentarily while shaking hands and accepting congratulations.
"We're plus-.500 in the series," Tomlin said.
They are, having improved to 56-55 all-time against the Browns, including postseason meetings.
They're likely to be two games over .500 after this season's rematch Nov. 11, and should continue to build on their series lead.
The Browns are in such a state of disarray that it's apparently going to take a team more capable of offering a legitimate challenge to get Tomlin's blood boiling and his emotions flowing, at least to the point where they're detectable to the outside observer.
In that respect, Tomlin's debut game really was business as usual, not that the man who hired him had any doubts.
"Honestly, I had total confidence in him and he came through," Dan Rooney said. "He did just what I expected him to do. He handled it so well.
"He just handles things as they come up. He does what he has to do."