As the Pittsburgh Steelers hit the offseason, it serves as a time to evaluate everything the organization does. Its players, assistant coaches, training, and down to the technology the team implements.
But how does a head coach evaluate himself? Our David Todd asked that poignant question to Mike Tomlin on Wednesday.
“It usually happens in the midst of looking all that is us. Because my job is to create an environment where we can be successful individually and collectively. When we’re not, then I have to assess how I create that environment.”
And by all measures, the Steelers’ environment is as strong as ever. Few teams could have the resolve the team showed this year. From losing their starting center, left tackle, and running back for the season and their franchise quarterback for parts of it, the season felt like an exercise of Murphy’s Law as much as it was football.
From players who are currently in the organization or ones who have left, you hear overwhelmingly positive remarks about their time in Pittsburgh. Just yesterday, in the news of Ross Cockrell re-signing with the team, he sounded grateful to find a home here.
“Playing for the Steelers means you are somebody who is striving for greatness,” he told Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “You want your team, your city, this organization to be more. That is what you get from everybody. You feel like you represent more than just yourself.”
It’s that all-in mentality, play for each other, not yourself, that may sound cliche and trite on the surface, but is evident through the actions of this group. There was not dissenter, as there was last season with LeGarrette Blount’s salty attitude, ultimately leading to his release. That doesn’t mean everyone on the team was an angel, but if there was an issue, it was never serious enough to garner public attention.
That is a product of good coaching and good teammates. Cockrell also cited his fellow defensive backs being fantastic teachers as a reason for his quick transition.
“That Friday meeting was really important for us…You got a chance to hear from Coach (Mike) Tomlin, Will Gay, Mike Mitchell, and Will Allen. The older guys took control of the meeting,” he told Varley.
As head coaches get hired each season, there is a desire to choose a person with strong offensive or defensive acumen, depending on which unit is weaker. While a strong football mind is important, what is even more critical is a leader of men. To manage 53 – and I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out dealing with coaches, scouts, ownership, and above all, the relationship with the general manager – players with 53 distinct personalities. To create an environment, to go back to Tomlin’s word, that makes each player feel like they’re in a position to succeed.
Tomlin, regardless of your thoughts on his overall performance, has done that as well as any coach in the NFL.