Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin likes to consider himself something of an instructor of men in a more general term that is not limited to just football. He does a lot of charity work that also puts him in that direct role of sharing wisdom with others, particularly younger people and the disadvantaged. And what he learns through all of these different experiences, it’s easy to imagine ultimately colors his approach to instructions on the field as well.
Tomlin has talked in the past about how football can be a valuable teaching tool as a purveyor of life lessons through adversity, camaraderie, triumph, failure, and any other number of achievements, trials, and emotions one might go through in a competitive and physical environment.
One of the things that he emphasizes is getting people out of their comfort zone, and he talked about that during his pre-game press conference yesterday. It began as a conversation about two the his coaching interns, with former cornerback William Gay working on the offensive side of the ball and former tight end David Johnson assisting on defense.
He explained that one of the reasons they’re working in these capacities “to really respect the vocation that is coaching and to make them aware of the things that are going on around them in terms of the opportunities to learn”.
But so much about football, really, is about being taken out of your comfort zone. So many moments in a game are relatively rare, whether it’s down and distance, formation, in-game circumstances, weather. The more you’ve experienced in the past, the more you’ve put yourself through, the better-prepared you are for any uncomfortable situations that might arise.
“I think we all benefit from that, regardless of profession”, he said of escaping your comfort zone. “We’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and the urgency or the heightened awareness associated with those uncomfortable feelings. We thoughtfully get people outside their area of expertise or their area of comfort. Thoughtfully, because it’s a good stimulator of growth”.
One example of that, which we see every year, is along the offensive line. Fred Johnson has been asked to play tackle for the first time. Tackles Jerald Hawkins and Derwin Gray have been working at guard in some capacity. Zach Banner was used as an extra lineman for the first time in the team’s last preseason game.
But there are any number of examples. Look at all the different roles Cameron Sutton his filled in-game at this point. Mike Hilton got an extended look at safety. James Washington was fed extra snaps working in the slot last time around.
All of these moves and others are designed to make individuals and those around them better by putting them in circumstances to which they have to adapt. For most of a 53-man roster, that’s just essential for survival.