Leading up to Hall of Fame weekend, current Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of legendary Steeler scout Bill Nunn that Nunn had signature “isms” that he used when evaluating players. Phrases and details that were passed along to others within the organization through his role as one of the team’s most important voices.
In his 14 seasons coaching the Steelers, Mike Tomlin has developed several key thoughts associated with him, as well. Among the most prominent is “The standard is the standard,” a line linked so strongly to Tomlin and the Steelers that is was engraved on a sign outside the team’s locker room. On a weekend when five Steelers, including Nunn, were enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the importance of such an event helped put that signature line in perspective again for Tomlin. Speaking on NFL Network Sunday morning, Tomlin went into his thinking behind the quote, and how this weekend supported it.
“Succinctly, it’s about excellence, and not only in terms of performance, but how we go about things, being classy in the way that we do things. And really, I just want to embrace it. I don’t want it to be an anvil around our neck. We walk past those Lombardi Trophies every day. We have the legacies of the men, like the men that got enshrined this weekend, but even the ones before them, to live up to,” Tomlin said. “It’s an honor to fight that battle and work, to uphold that standard. So I wanted to come up with a phrase that captured that, a mentality that we all could embrace.”
Tomlin has coached the Steelers for so long that the phrase he uses to explain living up to the legacies of Steeler legends actually applied to a pair of former players he coached with the team. Among the five Hall of Fame inductees from the Steelers this weekend were safety Troy Polamalu, whom Tomlin coached from 2007-2014, and guard Alan Faneca, whom Tomlin coached from 2007-2010.
Also among them was Nunn, a mentor to so many in his four decades with the team, and Bill Cowher, the head coach who Tomlin succeeded, and who Tomlin will pass this season for the second-most wins for a coach in team history. The team’s fifth inductee of the weekend was Donnie Shell, a safety and defensive leader from the Steel Curtain era of the franchise.
So much history being honored in one weekend for the franchise is a moving moment for everyone who is a part of the Steelers, even those without much connection to the specific people receiving gold jackets. It’s even more for those with the team longer, like Tomlin, who have direct connections to many of those five Hall of Famers. And being involved with the weekend is a present reminder for Tomlin and his team of the meaning behind his signature phrase.
“You know, it just makes me smile. I’m humbled and honored to be a part of it,” Tomlin said. “There’s responsibility that comes with it, because it’s the legacy of the men. It’s like the men that got enshrined in the Hall of Fame this weekend. The standard here for us is crystal clear and very evident. And it’s evident in the lives of the men that have come before us, players and coaches.”