Tomlin expects another run at Super Bowl
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Mike Tomlin expects the rest of his coaches to return, he expects all his injured players to return to health, and he expects his team to compete for another Super Bowl berth.
"We'll be there," Tomlin said in an interview Monday afternoon. "We'll be there. ... Our intentions have not and will not change. We have a desire to compete for a world championship each and every year. We're going to be unwavering in that pursuit."
Two weeks after the Steelers lost to Green Bay, 31-25, in the Super Bowl, Tomlin said he has "been wrapping a bow around the season" and will now concentrate on the NFL Scouting Combine that starts in Indianapolis this week and the draft April 28-30.
He has one opening on his staff after secondary coach Ray Horton accepted a job as defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals. He has been in no hurry to fill it.
"I'm just still in the information gathering process."
He expects the rest of his coaches to return for 2011, which would include coordinators Bruce Arians and Dick LeBeau.
Tomlin said five players who have had more serious surgeries over the past year should have no residual problems come training camp, including linebacker James Harrison, who had surgery on his lower back Monday morning.
Harrison was scheduled to have the surgery a week earlier but it was delayed when he came down with a fever.
Dr. Joseph Maroon performed what's known as a discectomy to remove a piece of herniated disc off a nerve that had been bothering Harrison all season.
"Everything went great," said Bill Parise, his agent. "The consensus was no one could figure out how he could play through the season. It was significant but textbook. The surgery went exactly as they wanted it to. James' recovery should be complete."
Other players the coach expects to be back at full health are offensive tackle Willie Colon and wide receiver Limas Sweed, both of whom had ruptured Achilles tendons in June, and offensive tackle Max Starks (neck surgery) and defensive end Aaron Smith (triceps surgery).
"All of those guys who sustained injuries, there's nothing that gives us an indication that they're going to be an ongoing issue or problem moving forward in terms of getting in the way of football."
Among other topics Tomlin touched on Monday:
• He wants tackle Flozell Adams to return for a second season at age 36, and he's not sure where Colon, a potential free agent, will play if he returns to the Steelers.
"I think [Adams] did a nice job for us. He's a good teammate, we had a very productive year."
As for Colon: "There's a lot of questions, a lot of unanswered questions involving that. First and foremost, of course, is Willie Colon's presence. He's scheduled to be a free agent."
• Sweed, drafted in the second round in 2008, will get a chance to compete for a job after spending part of '09 on injured reserve with depression and all of last season with his Achilles injury.
"His competition is getting stiff," Tomlin noted. "I think we've acquired some guys since we've acquired him that have proven that they're capable of playing NFL football. So from that standpoint, I'm sure it's not a comfortable situation but it is a competition."
• He will welcome all three veteran quarterbacks behind Ben Roethlisberger to training camp to compete: Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon, who spent the rest of the season on injured reserve after a knee ligament was sprained in the second game.
"Why not? That's a good problem to have, isn't it? We needed all four of them. We did, unfortunately. I don't fear competition and I don't think any of those men do either. It was a really good experience. Of course, it's not a slam-dunk that that's a good experience when you're in those situations, but I think that group and who they are as people and how they interact and related, I think makes it fun and special. All of those guys have been awesome."
• Keeping Smith on the roster the rest of the season after his Oct. 24 surgery was worth it, even though he never played again and they lost rookie linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, their fourth-round pick, because of it.
"Absolutely. That's just a level of respect that we have for what he's capable of as a player, and probably equally as important what he is as a man or member of this team. I think there is intrinsic value in that, there's an element of it you can't measure. If I had to do it over I would do it again."
Smith has told Tomlin he plans to return next season.
Wednesday: Scouting combine begins in Indianapolis.
April 28: NFL draft weekend starts in New York. The Steelers pick 31st.
First Published February 22, 2011 12:00 am