Mike Tomlin's words hit home

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Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin's colorful use of language has become a trademark of his persona, and a new eight-word admonition of his may become a "Tomlinism" that makes football safer for players from Pop Warner to the NFL.

"Don't hit the head -- Don't use the head" will be the mantra for a concussion awareness campaign co-sponsored by the Steelers and UPMC targeting youth, middle and high school football players in Western Pennsylvania, co-chaired by Tomlin and Dr. Mickey Collins, clinical and executive director for the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

Deaths and disabilities attributed to degenerative brain disease brought on by repeated head traumas have made concussions the foremost safety concern in football.

The Steelers had met internally and with UPMC doctors to develop ways to promote player safety, and Tomlin started using the phrase during spring practices. General manager Kevin Colbert noticed that the players responded to it, so he contacted Collins about using the phrase as a campaign motto.

"These words, although simple, are very profound," Collins said, noting that 72 percent of football players get concussions from helmet-to-helmet contact. "We can affect change here -- prevention starts with education."

A letter from Tomlin and Collins will be sent to area coaches, along with a fact sheet on concussions, and a poster for display in locker rooms featuring Tomlin with the phrase in bold, block letters. Further information is available at steelers.com/playsmart.

Tomlin said that he's not only invested in the campaign as a football coach, but also as a dad.

"As a parent -- one who has a 10- and 11-year-old who play youth football -- it's doubly important for me to be a part of this, to use the platform that I have to help our community, in particular our football community, at all levels."

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Dan Gigler: dgigler@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1884 and Twitter @ gigs2312.


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