TAMPA, Fla. -- Mike Tomlin has coached the Steelers for just two seasons but he already has one of their long Super Bowl traditions down pat. Go have fun, he told his players after they touched down here yesterday.
"It's my goal that we embrace all that comes with being in the Super Bowl," said Tomlin, who delivered those instructions at a team meeting yesterday. "We're not going to come down here and have the mentality that we're going to be resistant of the obligations that we have, or be resistant to these opportunities to visit with the media and so forth."
That is precisely the approach predecessors Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher took during the week leading up to previous Steelers Super Bowls. While some coaches tighten the screws to try to keep their players in line, Noll and Cowher preferred to keep things loose without losing their leash and allow their players to enjoy what might be a once in a lifetime experience for some.
"He said go down here and have fun, don't put too much emphasis on everything that's going on," linebacker James Harrison said. "We're down here to win a game. We want to go in and prepare as though we're back home in Pittsburgh. There's not going to be much of a difference, except there are going to be a lot of cameras and microphones in your face."
That began yesterday with the first round of media interviews for both teams. The Steelers' charter landed in Tampa around noon and they were speaking to the media by 3 p.m. in tents set up next to their InterContinental Tampa hotel near the airport.
Tomlin had no curfew for his players last night. Tonight, curfew is 1 a.m. and he scales it back until 11 p.m. Saturday. Today technically is the players' day off, but not until after their required appearance at media day activities early in the afternoon.
"We're down here to play and we're down here to win but there are a lot of things that come with that," Tomlin said. "There are 30 other teams I'm sure that would love to have the burden that we have this week. So from that standpoint we're going to embrace it. I've encouraged the guys not only this week but last week in preparation for us coming down here that we were going to have that mentality.
"There's going to be some joyful lifting for us if you will in terms of some of the tasks we have to do."
Each player might interpret Tomlin's directive differently.
"Lots of fishing, lots of surfing, staying out late at night," defensive end Brett Keisel suggested, then laughed.
"No, he just wants us to enjoy this time. We've worked hard for a long time to get to this point and to come down and not to be able to enjoy it and not have a good time would be defeating the purpose.
"You can enjoy putting shorts on and flip-flops, and you can enjoy the beach. There are new places, new faces to see and it's just a good time."
Tomlin, though, also made sure he got another point across, to have fun while not losing focus or control. There have been a handful of infamous arrests and disappearances of participants in the days leading up to a Super Bowl.
"We're down here to do a job and you can't lose focus of that and I don't think he'll let us lose focus of that," Keisel said. "He at the same time wants us to be able to enjoy this, he wants us to be able to have this as a good memory. I think that's his main focus."
The looser approach has worked for the most part for the Steelers, or at least good results often followed. They won all four of their visits to the Super Bowl under Noll and one of two under Cowher.
"You never know how many times you get to play in a Super Bowl," said tight end Heath Miller. "Some guys never get to play in a Super Bowl. I think it means to soak it all up, don't block everything out and focus entirely on the game. When it's time to work, it's time to work and it's time to get your preparation down, but soak everything else up and savor the moment."
He gave them one final piece of advice, according to Keisel.
"Just to stay smart and stay safe. We've come a long way and he just wants everyone to remember why we're here, and when we're out at night try and think about that."
Ed Bouchette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .