The Pittsburgh Steelers are in a people business, a fact they seem to realize better than most teams. While bias has to be taken into consideration, it is always remarkable how many players who come into the organization after having played elsewhere recount how their experience has been different here in terms of how they are treated.
Take new nose tackle Breiden Fehoko as the latest example. He just signed earlier this week, visiting Pittsburgh to sign his contract. He probably lost track of how many different conversations he had while he was in the building. And they might not have been what he expected to hear.
“Didn’t talk to me about football. They talked to me about how they can help me off the field”, he told Kevin Adams and Jersey Jerry in an exclusive interview for the Steel Here podcast. “The first thing Coach Tomlin said to me was, ‘Big Dog, I don’t want you to come in here and feel like you’ve got to be Superman and do everything yourself. You need a place to stay, you need to know where to find food, you need a car, you need something, call me. Call my phone. Call Mr. Khan’s phone. You can call anybody’s phone in this building. We will help you’”.
That might sound fairly run of the mill, but it hasn’t been for Fehoko. He said he never experienced that before, to have even his head coach telling him clearly, if you need anything, literally call me on my cell phone and I will help you out.
“To me that just hit home and it makes me want to play for this man”, he said of his initial interaction with Tomlin and how it had nothing to do with football. “I told this man, ‘Give me some shoes, I’m ready to go work out right now. Let’s go’”.
Now, surely, new players from just about every team will have a story about how they were fired up by a new coach and wanted to get to work right away. Cole Holcomb, one of the Steelers’ new linebackers, also talked about how speaking with linebackers coach Aaron Curry got him ready to hit the practice field.
But this isn’t about schematics and what to do on the field. This is getting somebody to want to work hard specifically for you because you show him that you value him as a person. It’s not about how to get the most out of him on the field. It’s about how to help him get the most out of his experience.
And it makes sense, because the latter should lead to the former. If you put a person in the best position that you can, then you are enabling him to settle down and to have the opportunity to excel at his craft. The football instruction can come later. There’s plenty of time for that.