Mike Tomlin is pretty widely regarded as one of the better head coaches in the league, but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t polarizing within the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base, at least for a small minority who would like to see him gone.
Those select few probably can’t stand the way he talks, while those who love him have grown accustomed to his demeanor, including his verbosity and his ‘Tomlinisms’. I happen to fall into the latter category, admittedly, and so I always enjoy when he hops on to NFL Network during the draft to discuss the goings-on.
He was on yesterday during the sixth round, and he was asked by the crew, understandably, about T.J. Watt, the outside linebacker that they drafted in the first. “I think the most significant element in the decision-making for us”, he said about why they chose him, “was that production on a limited amount of time at the position”.
“He’s only been an outside linebacker for two years” he went on, and when you couple what we saw on video with that fact, we’re really excited about the potential upside that this guy can add to his game as he continually gets familiar with playing the position”.
It wasn’t just about Watt and his upside, however, but also about the fact that he is stepping into a position in which he will be a protégé. A protégé to James Harrison. Mike Mayock told Tomlin that he is “fascinated” by Harrison and what he is doing at his age, and asked about the opportunity that Watt has to learn from the former Defensive Player of the Year.
“I’m no longer fascinated by James”, he began to de laughter. “He defies all odds”.
“But really”, he picked up, “what a quality example of professionalism for young guys, not only like T.J. but guys on our team—guys like Bud Dupree”. Dupree, of course, is not the only other young outside linebacker on the team. Anthony Chickillo is entering his third year, and after the interview, Tomlin also added Keion Adams in the seventh round.
“He’s in a unique position”, he said of Harrison, “where he’s playing alongside guys that have grown up watching him play the game, and I think he does a nice job of wearing that responsibility and really doing a nice job of training the next generation of Steeler outside linebackers”.
You might recall that when the Steelers re-signed Harrison to a two-year contract in 2015, one of the things that they talked about that went into making that decision was the fact that they wanted him to be a leader to the young players in the group.
Now he’s surrounded by young players looking up to him in Dupree, Chickillo, Watt, and Adams, and it will be under his stewardship that, as Tomlin pointed out, the next generation of pass rushers will be forged. If only they could measure up to Harrison’s measurements on the ‘will index’.