On the Steelers: Business as usual for Tomlin
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin: "The better we do at making the irregular regular, I think is going to increase our chances of winning."
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NEW ORLEANS -- Lockout? What lockout? Mike Tomlin's routine as Steelers coach hasn't changed much since the Super Bowl, and he has spent little time worrying whether it will.
As a matter of fact, he believes a long, protracted lockout might give the Steelers a competitive edge, provided the NFL winds up playing football in 2011.
How? He has a veteran team and a veteran coaching staff that played through the Super Bowl Feb. 6 and would not be doing much anyway right now.
"The better we do at making the irregular regular, I think is going to increase our chances of winning," Tomlin explained. "So you know that's going to be our mentality in Pittsburgh."
While a division rival like Cleveland must contend with a new head coach and staff, and another in Cincinnati must deal with its veteran quarterback who has vowed never to play again for the Bengals, the Steelers remain consistent in personnel and coaching.
That could provide a big edge if the NFL owners' lockout continues into the summer, along with it the inability of coaches to speak with their players, never mind institute new systems on offense and/or defense.
Tomlin said his players also know what it is like to prepare in the offseason, even if they cannot do so at the Steelers' training facility or under supervision from the staff.
"We have a veteran laden group with really good leadership," Tomlin said at a coaches breakfast Tuesday morning at the NFL meetings. "A little extra is required when you're trying to find a winning edge, a winning formula, and that is something our guys embrace."
The previous time the Steelers played in the Super Bowl two years ago, Tomlin pushed his offseason program back a little and had those players who saw more time in games report to spring workouts later.
That was to be the plan again this year.
"To this point it hasn't been very different at all. Our offseason program generally starts around the middle of March. We have a veteran outfit, and our veterans usually don't start at the very beginning. Couple that with the fact I've been on the road at the Pro Days, it really hasn't been very different."
Tomlin has visited five draft prospects' pro workouts with Kevin Colbert, the director of football operations. He plans to visit two more, plus the Steelers will begin entertaining draft prospects at their facility on the South Side next week. Each team is permitted 30 player visits.
"I sit down with all of those in my office," Tomlin said.
During a lockout, no one from management or the coaching staff is permitted to speak with their players, who also are not permitted to visit the training facility or even the trainers' room to rehab injuries. Other than that, there has been little difference for Tomlin in the 12 days of the lockout, mainly because the April draft remains the lone permitted football activity under the expired collective bargaining agreement.
"I'm really not concerned about some of the other stuff going on. I've got no control over it, so I'm in a wait-and-see mentality like everybody else. ... Whatever the circumstances are, we're all going to have to deal with it so, from that standpoint, it's going to be fair."
It had nothing to do with the lockout, but Tomlin did not see Hines Ward's "Dancing With the Stars" debut Monday night.
"I'm not a big television watcher," said Tomlin, who was eating dinner during Ward's competition. "I don't even know what time it comes on. I got a few texts last night, and that's the only reason that I knew it was on. I think everybody was pretty encouraging about his performance. They said he did a nice job, but that doesn't surprise me.
"Man, I wouldn't count Hines out of any competition. If there was a brain surgery competition I'm sure he'd educate himself and compete."
Would he like to see him go the whole way?
"Sure, as long as it doesn't conflict with what I've got going on. At this point, it doesn't look like it's going to conflict with what I've got going on."
On the health status of tackles Max Starks (neck surgery) and Willie Colon (Achilles surgery), Tomlin said "all things were encouraging" the last time he had contact with them before the lockout. "I think they're progressing well; we're moving forward in anticipation that will be the situation." ... Tomlin said he would not close the door on Colon playing guard (provided he does not leave as a free agent). ...On the health of Troy Polamalu, bothered by a foot injury the final two months of the season: "I haven't talked to Troy that much, and that's not out of the ordinary this time of year. He might be in a monastery." ... Tomlin said he is comfortable with the progress of punter Daniel Sepulveda, who missed last season with his third torn ACL since his final college season, but also mentioned that Jeremy Kapinos "did a nice job for us. ... We have some options there, and looking at the draft pool is one of them."