Mike Tomlin is a wonderful coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has just the right personality for the job. He opened his press conference on Tuesday by saying with a wry smirk, "Greetings from the non-bird contingent of the final four. It's nice to be here."
I think the conferences are slated to go no further than 40-45 minutes each Tuesday at noon. He starts getting a little agitated around the 12:28 mark just about every week. For the most part of the regular season, they are done by just after 12:30. I think I've watched them all this season on FSN Pittsburgh (DirecTV Ch. 659), what else does a man currently employed by life have to do on Tuesday while enjoying his lunch?
Anyway, this week about 12:35, some reporter I don't recognize (it was packed this week with a lot of non-regulars, thus longer than normal) asks about comments made by (un-named of course) veterans after the win over San Diego about him being a better coach in January of his second season as opposed to his rookie season last year and if he feels the same way about his performance? Tomlin has this nonsensical look in his face and replies rather tersely, "Frankly, I'm not interested in evaluating my own performance as a head coach, and I'm certainly not interested in discussing my players' evaluations of my job. It's my job to evaluate their performance just as there are others in this organization that evaluate mine!" By this point, he was kinda steamed and he wanted you to know it, but he did so without looking angry at all, and the room was busting up laughing. After a perfect pause, he finished it off with a great zinger to the reporter, "How's your editor doing (at his job)?"
I have read accounts that Tomlin does a crossword puzzle and the jumble daily. You can tell that he is a man of letters because he is great with the media each Tuesday. Tony Kornheiser heaped all kinds of praise on Tomlin during a Steelers Monday Night Football game earlier this season. Tomlin is humorous yet stern, candid yet reserved, confident in his team yet respectful of all their opponents. He's easy-going yet all-business, too. You can see why all kinds of players perform for him because he's so flexible, personality-wise. From my observation, he has this great presence on the sideline and locker room as well as in the media center.
I liked him the day the Steelers hired him and I grow to like him more and more as a coach with every passing game. I grow to like him more as a person with every passing press conference and interview. And this week, a brief flash of seemingly-unassuming footage just strengthened my fondness for Mike Tomlin.
On Showtime's Inside the NFL this week, they opened the segment of highlights from the Steelers-Chargers AFC Divisional Playoff game with an NFL Films-shot from the 50 yd.-line; camera on the ground looking up right at Coach Tomlin, before kickoff and just after the team had charged, no pun intended, onto a frozen Heinz Field. He turned around both to face and take in the frenzied crowd; he breathed in the cold air enhanced by falling snow in the twilight. If October's brown-dead ivy in Wrigley Field is the visual symbol to Cubs fans that it's the postseason taking place now, then the falling snow beneath a January steel-grey sky against a Heinz Field backdrop is the same to sons and daughters of Western Pennsylvania. Last Sunday's snowflakes sparkled between tens of thousands of gold towels waving above tens of thousands of gold seats that would go practically unused throughout the game.
As Mike Tomlin appreciated this moment, he didn't gesture or play to the crowd--he isn't Ray Lewis and this isn't Baltimore. He just smiled proudly, then turned back to face the field, almost like a conductor would face his orchestra after greeting the audience, then the Head Coach took a deep breath and donned his headset. Another professional football postseason was about to begin at the confluence, and all seemed right in Pittsburgh.