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It Has to Be Tomlin

January 20, 2007 by CK Stiller

After a long layoff I'm back to discuss the Tomlin hiring

Smoke from the Diesel´┐Ż..Thoughts on the Tomlin Hiring


After a long layoff I'm back to discuss the Tomlin hiring. Ever since September this guy has been mentioned as a darkhorse candidate to replace Bill Cowher. The more I read about this guy, the more I liked him. First off, the last 2 Steeler HC were defensive minded assistants in their mid 30's. They were also guys brought in from outside of the organization who were allowed to bring in their own assistants. I like the fact that Tomlin stated he is 'fundamentalist' in his approach to the game. This is important as our Steeler Fury 'Goat of the Year' Troy Polamalu displayed a complete lack of basic fundamentals at times.

Mike Tomlin grew up in Hampton, VA and played WR at William & Mary. As a coach he switched to the defensive side of the ball. He coached DB's at the U. of Cincinnati before becoming the DB coach of the Bucs from 2001-2005. Herm Edwards left Tony Dungy's staff after the '00 season to become the coach of the Jets. Tomlin was kind of a darkhorse candidate to get that job as well but impressed Dungy and D-Coordinator Monte Kiffin with his confidence, charisma and knowledge for the game. The 1st time safety John Lynch met Tomlin he was very impressed with him; he still sings his praises now. Lynch recalls that Tomlin had them doing high school drills mastering the fundamentals of the game. Tomlin did not care that he was 28 and Lynch was a 29 y/o respected veteran and pro-bowler. Tomlin believes in fundamentals and 'mastering the things that require no talent' as he stated in his press conference on 01/22/2007.

Tomlin learned the Tampa 2 from Dungy or as he called it the 'Dungy 2.' This is where the 2 safeties play deep and cut the field in half. The corners will usually play up on the line of scrimmage and bump the receivers to disrupt their patterns. They can do this because they have deep help from the safeties. The system the Steelers have been running is a cover 3. This is where the corners play about 11 yards off the ball and the free safety plays WAY deep. The strong safety can roam around and wreak havoc. They can fake blitzes and drop into coverage or go after the QB. This worked well in '04 and '05 with Polamalu and certainly won't be scrapped. In '06 (and at times in '05) it seemed the Steelers got so enamored with this they were basically taking Polamalu out of the play. I remember sitting in the stands watching the Pats-Steelers game in September of '05. Polamalu would come up to the line of scrimmage then turn his back and walk away right before the ball was snapped. Then he would turn around and rush the line of scrimmage before the ball was snapped and he didn't even get close to Brady in time to disrupt the pass.

The other problem is that for once we will have a play maker at free safety instead of a coach on the field who plays 25 yards off the ball, and makes up for the mistakes of the play-making strong safety or the corners. Tomlin will definitely stress fundamentals and get Troy to stop free lancing as much. At times Pola and Tony Smith will sit back in the cover 2 and dare the receivers to try to catch the ball in the soft spot of the zone. It will be the safeties job to come up and crush them. Either separating them from the ball or at the very least make them not want to come across the middle again. Tony Smith will be fantastic as this and won't be wasted 30 yards off the ball on every play. I am excited having Tomlin learn the 3-4 zone blitz concept from LeBeau. Like I said Tony will play SOME center-fielder with Pola roaming. However, we should be able to switch coverage from the Dungy 2 to the cover 3 within the course of a game and confuse opponents.

Cowher used every bit of energy and motivation he had in getting the Steelers to 15-1 in '04 and a championship in '05. His apathy trickled down through the coaching staff and the result was a ton of sloppy, undisciplined play. Tomlin is a breathe of fresh air and will instill discipline and fundamental soundness into this football team. As far as the front 7 goes on the defense the Steelers need an Adalius Thomas type player that can put his hand down and rush the passer as well as stand up and rush from the outside. Also this player can drop into a zone and defend the pass. This will be necessary if the Steelers want to be able to change fronts throughout the course of a game from the 3-4 to the 4-3.

I am not too worried about the offense from a coaching standpoint. Bruce Arians will provide continuity as O-Coordinator. I believe Whipple will take the WR job. His only job in the NFL has been a QB coach so coaching the WR's and helping Arians with the gameplan will ready him for his eventual promotion to O-Coordinator. (be it with the Steelers or elsewhere)

When I read the blurb about Mike Tomlin after Bill Cowher resigned I had a very strong gut feeling this guy would be the new coach. There are no guarantees when hiring new coaches, but the Rooneys did not take the easy way out. They conducted a national search and brought in the best candidate to get the Steelers back to playing disciplined football. I am very excited and can't wait to see some CB's playing bump and run and Tony Smith cracking skulls. Really I am glad to have something different with huge potential upside. Go Steelers!!!!


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