Is the famously passionate and loyal Steelers fanbase a bit unfortunate when it comes to how much access they have to their beloved head coach Mike Tomlin? I think we might be. I'm not asking for unfettered accessibility and candor on the same level as a Rex Ryan, but really, at least in my mind at least, it's disappointing that a fanbase this passionate and rabid doesn't get more access to what's going on inside the mind of the man the Rooneys entrusted to lead this team. Sure, Chuck Noll maybe was recalcitrant, or at least reluctant, with the media, but that was a different era. The occasional TV interview or weekly coach's show -- which I believe Noll did based on what I remember from one of Silverstein's MSP articles -- that was enough for fans back then. Hell, that might be enough still today even in the wacky, ADD riddled media landscape and news cycle.
To be clear, this all stems from how much I enjoy, learn and even at times personally benefit from hearing what Mike Tomlin has to say. He's that special when it comes to his oratory abilities.
But Tomlin doesn't even really do the perfunctory appearances that all college coaches do and most NFL coaches partake in. I'm particularly aware of what type of availability coaches give because of the radio interviews site I founded and help manage. Bill Belichick, supposedly the most inaccessible coach in the game, gives Patriots fans 25 minutes win or lose each Monday to talk about that Sunday's game. Yes he's dry in places, but he talks football. Can't BS for 25 minutes; you have to talk nuts and bolts, personalities and team dynamics. Belichick does that each and every week.
I think I speak on behalf of Steeler Nation when I make this please for increased exposure to our fearless leader, Mike Tomlin. And before it's too late, I want an inside look at the myriad veteran personalities that comprise the core of this team. The team the Steelers have trotted out on the field -- and will again in 2011 -- is assembled in a way that we may not ever see again in our lives.
Sounds dramatic, I know. But it may just be true.
Not the right time to add it all up, but are you really going to tell me that we're likely to see a franchise go to battle with so many of the same key guys over the course of a seven year span? Since 2005, plenty of guys have come and gone, a remarkable number of core players are still around and will presumably finish their careers in Pittsburgh. Big Ben, Hines Ward, Aaron Smith, Big Snack, Brett Keisel, Trai Essex, Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Heath Miller James Farrior, Chris Hoke, Larry Foote and Bryant McFaden if you overlook their respective hiatuses -- all these guys have competed for three Super Bowls together. Fast forward to 2008 and you add another slew of key guys that are a huge part of the organization (Willie Colon, Lawrence Timmons, LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Ryan Clark, et al). How does Tomlin manage those veterans while negotiating the tough task of preparing unproven young talent so that the standard remains the standard.
Bottom line is this is a special window that the Steelers have been in this past seven years, and things have really peaked since Tomlin's second year in Pittsburgh, 2008. I don't want to read about these glory days through the watered down lens of a ghost writer, or even from Tomlin himself too far down the road. I would love to just hear a bit more each week and month from the man we all freaking LOVE to listen speak and motivate.
My co-editor at SRI and I have been scouring the airwaves for interesting interviews for close to three years running now, and Tomlin's interview on 980 ESPN in DC prior to the Steelers' preseason opener against the Redskins two weeks ago was outstanding. I respected listening Tomlin say to John Thompson, the Hall of Fame basketball coach at Georgetown, that he wouldn't possibly come and go from the nation's capital without taking the time to chat with a man that Tomlin publicly thanked for opening up doors and opportunities for young African American coaches like himself by virtue of the dignity (and success) in which he oversaw the Hoyas program. Yet, it ultimately just reminded me that I wish we got to see/hear more. Though I can't say I fault him too much on this front, even the post-game pressers are becoming shorter and more like a chore almost.
Let me conclude by saying that I don't live in Pittsburgh, so I'm not privy to all the appearances that Tomlin surely makes all around town -- ALL the time. Believe me, I get that. But here's the deal: you can't hang your hat on being 'Steeler Nation' without acknowledging that your citizens, are in fact, spread all over the country, and world even. Those of us not living in Pittsburgh don't get the chance to get an autograph from Tomlin, hear him on a local ad, speaking at a charity event, etc. etc. We only get what we are fed through the media -- local and national alike. And without sounding petulant or acknowledging that his job is to win football games, not yuck it up, I'd still say that what we get is not enough.