After the Steelers' victory over the New York Jets, Steelers' coach Mike Tomlin made sure to give an encouraging evaluation of rookie running back Le'Veon Bell after he ran for only 34 yards and averaged 2.1 yards per carry. He specifically made a point of saying Bell did a "great job" against the Jets regardless of what the statistics said after the game.
Yesterday he revealed that it was part of his plan to continue to motivate the second round draft pick out of Michigan State.
"You guys know that I don't care what it is you say or write," Tomlin said, as quoted by Post-Gazette reporter Ed Bouchette. "But I realize that he is a young guy and he may. So, I felt the need to assure him that he was doing the right things a week ago and he's doing what we're asking him to do in the manner in which we're asking him to do it."
Tomlin has been known for his short words with the media, but all appearances show he is doing everything he can to use them as a tool to bolster his young running back.
Even in the post-game comments to this week game, Tomlin looked for every opportunity to make positive remarks on Bell. Upon being asked about his satisfaction of the offense averaging close to seven yards on first down plays, Tomlin remarked about the offense's overall performance. Subsequently he prompted the media with, "Any questions about Le'Veon Bell today? No?" It was a clear effort to work positive commentary of the running back that is supposed to change the dynamics of the Steelers' offense.
So why all the sudden concern for what the media prints or talks about during the week? It's because Tomlin wants to mold this rookie entirely from what the organization thinks, and not from what people outside the organization might say.
"I don't want him listening to the elevator music. I want him listening to what matters, and that's the opinion of the people that evaluate him. So, that's why I took the stance that I took last week in regards to some of the things written and said about how he plays, because I don't want him to pay attention to that."
What seems as a concerted effort to mold Bell into a prime weapon for the Steelers effort, may be one of the brilliant things Tomlin does with this season. Tomlin doesn't pass out commendations carelessly, just ask punter Zoltan Mesko about having his punting efforts referred to as "junior varsity." If Tomlin can mold Bell into a leader for this team who helps bring a strong running game in the coming years, remember these days where he strategically put verbal pats on the back of Bell after mid-season wins.
So you can add "elevator music" to your bag of Tomlin-isms, and keep an eye out for more words about Le'Veon Bell from the head coach. After missing almost the entire preseason and the first three games of the season, Bell was assuredly feeling pressure from not being able to show what he can do for the team. Tomlin's coaching effort is trying to erase those tough weeks from the rookie's focus on what he needs to do now as a player.