Tomlin's top priority: Eliminate distractions
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PHOENIX -- Mike Tomlin arrived in Phoenix Thursday night with his family for the NFL meetings that began yesterday. He's still waiting for his bag.
That kind of distraction can ruin a trip, but the new Steelers coach was making do, outfitted from head to toe by Reebok donations as he made his way through a line of interviews with NFL Films, ESPN and others.
It's a small example of what he expects from his team under his watch. He wants his players and coaches to abolish distractions, something he figures they probably did not do very well as reigning Super Bowl champions last season.
"I want to eliminate the variables that don't matter," said Tomlin, attending his first league-wide meeting. "That's what the great teams do more than anything else -- they show up, and they play the game. That's a culture. It's not something that happens week in and week out. It's a culture that defines that kind of atmosphere."
The Steelers slipped to 8-8 last season after winning the Super Bowl less than 14 months ago. Tomlin did not specifically blame their fall on what's commonly known as a Super Bowl hangover, but he has his suspicions because of experience. Tomlin was the secondary coach when Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl after the 2002 season and held the same job when the Buccaneers went 7-9 the next season.
"I would imagine that [distractions played a part]. Again, I'm purely speculating because I wasn't here. But I know what it's like to come back as the reigning Super Bowl champion and being part of that. We fell miserably on our faces when I was in Tampa, so you see how it can happen.
"You have nine radio shows and the next year you have 22 radio shows, you know what I mean? There are banquets and appearances and things of that nature. As a position coach, I'm getting compensated for making appearances and things of that nature, just stuff that goes with being successful.
"That probably determines what happens in this league more than anything -- not how you deal with failure ... how you deal with success, man, defines you. The longer I'm in it, the more I believe it and embrace that.
"The key is, your football team has to embrace it. At the same time, they can't be dulled by that. You have to appreciate the big games, you have to win them, stack them, put it where it's supposed to be and move on."
First Published March 26, 2007 12:00 am