Mike Tomlin pulled into Saint Vincent College in a new black vehicle, something different, a unique mode of travel for a Steelers head coach and something perhaps symbolic.
He rumbled onto campus driving a Ford F-150. The coach is ready for the big construction job ahead of him after consecutive 8-8 seasons.
“I’m excited about getting things started,” Tomlin said after putting his players through a run test on the eve of their first practice in Latrobe.
The next question might be, does his new pickup truck come with a hot seat?
That seems to be a popular topic around the NFL lately. One website had Tomlin as the coach with only the 22nd-best job security in the NFL, placing him below two former Steelers assistants, Bruce Arians with Arizona and Ken Whisenhunt with Tennessee.
The reality is, there is no hot seat. Tomlin’s record is 71-41, tying him with Bill Cowher for the best coaching record with the Steelers after seven seasons. The Steelers under Tomlin are 1-1 in Super Bowls, and they have not had a losing season.
They have gone without a winning season in the past two, but Art Rooney II, the team’s president, and Dan Rooney, who preceded him and reigns as team chairman, have a long history of patience with coaches.
Like Tomlin, after some early success, Cowher’s teams ran into trouble as they changed to a new era with new players. They missed the playoffs three consecutive years from 1998 through 2000 by going 7-9, 6-10 and 9-7. The Rooneys reacted to those seasons by signing Cowher to a contract extension before the 2001 season. Tomlin, who signed a three-year extension in 2012 that carries through the 2016 season, is due another extension next year.
Is there pressure to win? Absolutely — at all levels in all pro sports — but Tomlin said he feels no more this year than in any other season. In fact, he laughed at the question Friday before issuing a flat, “No.”
Consecutive 8-8 seasons also have not prompted him to approach this training camp differently, he insisted.
“Not for me. We’re here to build our team for 2014. What we’ve done in the past is in the past. To be quite honest with you, a lot of those guys who are going to be significant components of what we do this year were not a part of some of those teams you mentioned.
“I’m singularly focused on the now. I’m going to sell that to the football team. We don’t need to carry last year’s baggage. I say that every year regardless of what transpired last year. I just think that’s an appropriate mentality for individuals and for football teams, one that I hope this group buys into.”
Wide receiver Lance Moore has been around only since the spring after signing from New Orleans as a free agent. He said he noticed no sense of pressure around the team.
“I would say there’s a sense of urgency — 8-8 is not what this organization is all about. This organization is about winning games and competing for championships, and we’re going to be willing to do whatever it takes to get back to that.”
Ike Taylor, entering his 12th season, also downplayed the pressure.
“Nahh, ain’t no pressure, man,” Taylor said. “When you go 8-8 twice, you know what you put yourself into, regardless. One thing I do like about this business, it’s black and white, no gray areas. You get the job done or you don’t. When you don’t get the job done, you know the consequences. When you do get the job done there is a reward.
“It’s another day, another dollar, the 2013 season has passed, the 2014 season is here.”
Big Ben’s contract on hold
Art Rooney II confirmed the Steelers will not negotiate a contract extension with Ben Roethlisberger. It breaks a tradition for the Steelers, who have extended the contracts of their past three starting quarterbacks when they had two years left on their current deals — Roethlisberger, Tommy Maddox and Kordell Stewart.
They were unable or unwilling to do that with Neil O’Donnell and lost him in free agency in 1996 after he helped guide them to their first Super Bowl game in 16 years.
“I met with Ben Roethlisberger just prior to our signing Maurkice Pouncey to ensure Ben understood our intentions with regard to his contract situation,” Rooney said in a statement. “I talked to Ben about the fact that we are committed to addressing his contract after the 2014 season, so that we can try to address the players who are in the last year of their contracts.
“Like all of us, Ben wants to be in a position to compete for championships. I think Ben understands our intentions and our commitment to getting his contract done next offseason.”
After Pouncey, however, the Steelers have made no moves to extend any players who are on the final year of their contracts. That includes outside linebacker Jason Worilds, cornerback Cortez Allen, offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert and kicker Shaun Suisham.
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette. First Published July 25, 2014 12:00 AM