It was a revelation to many when Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Joe Haden told reporters last week that head coach Mike Tomlin conducts weekly meetings with many of his position groups throughout the roster. Not that it should have been, especially among those who believe that Tomlin has entirely taken control of the defense.
Even reporters have been taking up this line of thought and injecting it into their questioning. Tomlin was asked about how he makes decisions about who to meet with and when during his Tuesday pre-game press conference, and he gave a typically Tomlin answer.
“Man, if I am awake and, in this building, and they are in the building, I am meeting with somebody”, he said. “I think it is important. I live by the creed ‘no job too small’. We all have to roll our sleeves up and be prepared to ante up and kick in”.
Despite consistently talking about himself in the terms of being a football lifer, his background and eloquence have often falsely given outside observers the impression that he is more of a hands-off sort of coach whose whole life isn’t his profession, though it very clearly largely is.
“Those are just words. The actions are more important, and I like to display that”, Tomlin said of his meetings with players and position groups. “I meet with DBs, I meet with linebackers, I meet with quarterbacks on Wednesday mornings at 7:30. You can go on and on. There is nothing unique or new that is happening in that regard. We are not paid by the hour. Our job is to win. I enjoy what I do”.
It shows, despite his detractors, and seasons such as this can actually be more enjoyable on a base level. The expectations largely flew out the window once Ben Roethlisberger went down, but they have been scratching and clawing and making life miserable for opposing offenses with an insanely ‘splashy’ defense that leads the league in both sacks and takeaways (though two of the latter have come from special teams).
Of Tomlin, Haden said last week, “he’s just very, very, very hands-on with everything with the team”, later adding that he gives “great knowledge and information” pertaining to their position and the upcoming opponent.
There is a famous story about Tomlin as a novice defensive backs coach coming up to All-Pro safety John Lynch in the former’s first season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and presenting him with a list of critiques of his game. Lynch could hardly believe it at first, but when he saw the work, he bought in.
“He’ll let you know where you stand, if you’re making the plays, if you’re not”, Haden said of Tomlin. “If he’s going to go shopping for another guy. Just his transparency, and then, he really believes in us and he feels like we can do it until we show him otherwise. I just, I love him”.