Steelers players have confidence in Rooneys' choice
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Steelers players did not break into a dance to celebrate the news that Mike Tomlin would be their new coach, but they hope the owners' track record on such moves proves itself for the third time in the past 38 years.
"I thought there were good candidates in-house," said All-Pro guard Alan Faneca, an offensive co-captain. "But the Rooneys know what they're doing. They had two coaches in 38 years. I think they have the system down."
Faneca said last week that he thought his line coach, Russ Grimm, would "make a great head coach." Grimm and Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera were the other finalists.
Virtually every player polled before and after Bill Cowher resigned Jan. 5 said they would like to see the Steelers promote one of their assistant coaches, either Grimm or Ken Whisenhunt, the offensive coordinator who since became Arizona's head coach.
Steelers president Art Rooney II and chairman Dan Rooney picked Tomlin on Sunday, after they and football operations director Kevin Colbert interviewed all five of the original candidates.
"I'm surprised, I guess you could say," defensive end Brett Keisel said of the choice. "I said this before, I have the most confidence in the Rooneys to select a coach -- they have, and now we can move forward."
"I'm quite sure Kevin and the Rooneys made a good decision," linebacker Larry Foote said. "All the reports I hear about people who know coach Mike said he's a great guy. I'm excited."
Some defensive players were relieved when they learned that Tomlin planned to keep coordinator Dick LeBeau in place. The Steelers have run a 3-4 defense since 1983.
"I heard LeBeau's staying," Foote said. "I don't think our defense will have any problems."
Tomlin ruled over a 4-3 defense as the Minnesota Vikings' coordinator, the same defense that was run in Tampa Bay when he was the Buccaneers' secondary coach for five years. It's possible he could add some wrinkles to LeBeau's defense.
"I played a 4-3 in college so I'm familiar with it a little bit," Keisel said. "That would really surprise me if we automatically went to a 4-3. We do run some 4-3 things with our nickel and dime packages. I don't think it would be that big of a step to take."
While many players were a little anxious over the hiring of a coach from the outside, they also thought change could be effective.
"It mattered a little bit, just because of the scheme," halfback Verron Haynes said. "Now we have to learn a new system. But that's part of being a professional. We're going to go grind it out and give it a chance and see what comes of it. I'm excited for the opportunity."
"This gives us a fresh start," Foote said. "Our team is pretty much intact. He's definitely coming into a great situation. He can add his insight and maybe get us back over the top."
"Change can be good, and, obviously, we're in the middle of change," Keisel said. "Who knows what's going to happen with the offense, the defense. Obviously, we'll have a new special teams coach. It will be different at work, but we're in a situation where we have a new coach and we all need to embrace him and move forward."
Like Cowher when he was hired, Tomlin is 34 years old, not much older than many of the players he will coach. His enthusiasm is another trait similar to the team's former coach, some players noted.
"When you watch his interviews on TV and hear about him, he's a motivating guy," nose tackle Chris Hoke said. "He has some similarities to coach Cowher, who coached with a lot of enthusiasm and motivated players."
"He's 34 years old," Keisel said. "I'm sure he'll come in with a lot of energy and hopefully the whole team can build off of that and start our run for Arizona next year."
The 2008 Super Bowl will be played at the Cardinals' new stadium in Glendale, Ariz.Lake Fong, Post-Gazette Associated Press
The new coach -- Mike Tomlin
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First Published January 23, 2007 12:00 am