Long before he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, quarterback Mason Rudolph probably already had a good sense of the kind of head coach Mike Tomlin is. After all, Tomlin met with Rudolph at the annual scouting combine and was also present for the Oklahoma State product’s pro day a few weeks later. Now that Rudolph has been a member of the Steelers for nearly two full months, he asked during a Wednesday interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio what it’s like to be around Tomlin.
“Its great,” Rudolph said. “He’s everywhere in the building, he’s a walker. He’ll be in the weight room one minute and the training room the next. He gets around and his presence is felt and he’s an unbelievable leader. He’s very close with the players, a players’ coach to the max. He’s got great relationships with the players off the field as well as in the way he commands their respect on it. So, it’s been fun to see him and to kind of develop our own personal relationship.”
It’s not surprising that the Steelers rookie quarterback talked favorably of his new head coach. Additionally, it’s not surprising to hear Rudolph call Tomlin a “players’ coach to the max” as that’s often how you’ve heard him characterized over the years by players and analysts alike. In 2014, however, Tomlin was seemingly irritated at being referred to as a “players’ coach” during an interview with Fox Sports prior to the Steelers game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In fact, at one point during that interview with with Laura Okmin, Tomlin went as far as to say that then-defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau could be called a “players’ coach,” too, but that he isn’t because he’s is an “old white guy.”
A few days after making those comments during his interview with Okmin, Tomlin attempted to clarify them when asked to during his weekly Tuesday press conference with the local media.
“I’m not insulted by that term in any way,” said Tomlin. “Usually it’s in the context of questioning. I’ve been at this eight years and some of the line of questioning gets routine and old. Sometimes when they couple players’ coach with how I wear my hair or what I choose to wear on the sideline, or what type of music that I listen to, then it gets a little old and kind of falls into that category for me.
“I’d like to think the manner in which I do my job, whether it’s positive or negative, has very little to do with my haircut or the clothes that I wear or the type of music I listen to, and that’s when I get annoyed with that line of questioning when it’s coupled with things like that.”
Tomlin was then immediately asked at that time if he considers himself more of a progressive, “players’ coach.”
“I consider myself “a” coach,” said Tomlin. “I refuse to be put in a box. It’s my job to be what my team needs me to be. Sometimes it’s close and cuddly and sometimes it’s not and I don’t have any problem being any of the above.”
Ahead of this year’s draft and specifically at this year’s Senior Bowl, NFL.com polled 20 invitees on various football-related questions with one being which NFL coach would they most-like to play for. Tomlin received three votes and that tied him for the second-most behind only New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who received four votes.
Personally, I don’t think Tomlin will take issue with Rudolph saying he’s a “players’ coach to the max” on Wednesday and especially being as he also called his head coach an “unbelievable leader.”