Can't wait for Tomlin's take on Haley
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It's probably just as well that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin won't be available for comment at high noon today when the team rolls out new offensive coordinator Todd Haley for his introductory news conference at its South Side compound. Tomlin will be there -- ostensibly to show his support for the Haley hiring -- but will not take questions. This is supposed to be Haley's day. The last thing Tomlin wants to do is upstage him. At a later date, he will face the inquiring minds and try to answer -- or dodge -- questions that are much more significant to the franchise's long-term future than the ones Haley will get about how he thinks his combustible personality will play with a successful team and how he plans to co-exist with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
You don't want to miss the Tomlin news conference.
Can't you just hear the questions?
Do you think former coordinator Bruce Arians did a good job with the offense last season?
Did you want to keep Arians?
How do you feel about your boss telling you that Arians had to go?
Why did you hire Haley?
Did you hire Haley?
That's a lot of dodging.
Tomlin is good at it, among the best in sports, especially with questions he doesn't like. But this batch will be a challenge, especially the ones involving Arians. No one at Steelers headquarters has disputed the report by the Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac that Tomlin told Arians right after the season that he wanted him back and told staff members that Arians would be back. No one, including team president Art Rooney II, has disputed Dulac's report that Rooney II trumped Tomlin and forced out Arians.
The way Arians' exit was handled made Tomlin look weak. How does Tomlin put a positive spin on that?
Certainly by now, Tomlin has a better grip on the company line. He'll put on a smile -- real or otherwise -- when Haley steps to the lectern today. By the time he finally sits down with the media again -- it hasn't happened since the day after the playoff loss against the Denver Broncos -- he probably will make Haley sound like the second coming of Bill Walsh.
"I've admired Todd's work for a long time. You might remember his Arizona bunch gave us fits in Super Bowl XLIII. He's the perfect coach at the perfect time to lead our offense. We will not struggle again in the red zone. We will not finish 21st in the league in points ... "
You expect to hear something else from Tomlin?
"I work for a meddling boss and I don't like it one bit. I've done a wonderful job here. I'm as successful as just about any coach in the NFL. And I can't pick my offensive coordinator? You've got to be kidding me! When is my contract up?"
I could be wrong, but I don't think Tomlin will go there.
At least not publicly.
Hey, all speculation is fair until we hear from Tomlin or more from Rooney. I can't say for sure one way or the other who hired Haley. We might never know. But I do know this: If Rooney forced Haley on Tomlin after forcing out Arians after a 12-4 season, Tomlin can't possibly like it.
Nor should he.
It would be enough to make Tomlin at least consider his long-term future with the Steelers, especially now that Rooney II appears to have taken nearly complete control of the franchise from his father, Dan.
Tomlin has done a wonderful job here. He is as successful as just about any coach in the NFL. In five years, he has convinced me he's a better coach than Bill Cowher before him. And Cowher was terrific.
The Steelers also have been great for Tomlin. The Rooneys gave him a chance to be an NFL coach when he was 34 and the relatively unknown defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings. They did so when it would have been a lot easier to promote Ken Whisenhunt or Russ Grimm from Cowher's staff. The Tomlin hiring was not popular with the team's players and many fans. But it turned out to be a tremendous hire.
There aren't better owners in sports than the Rooneys, at least there weren't before this offensive coordinator mess. They stuck with Cowher for 15 seasons, not all of them good. Before that, they had Hall of Famer Chuck Noll for 23 seasons, not all of them good. Other teams change coaches the way men change socks. The Steelers have had three coaches in 43 years. That's incredible support from ownership. Every coach should be so lucky to have it.
I'm guessing Tomlin will have the chance to be here for a long time. I'm just not so sure anymore that he wants to stay.
We're not going to have to wait long to find out.
Steelers.com has reported Tomlin's contract runs through next season with an option for 2013.
First Published February 9, 2012 12:00 am