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A New Era Begins: Steelers Hire Vikings Defensive Coordinator Mike Tomlin...

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Update [2007-1-21 13:37:52 by SteelerFan]: It's Tomlin! No... Grimm! Cowher's returning? Wait, what? Will I coach the Steelers? Mr. Rooney, I'm flattered, but...

Right: it's all getting confusing. The Steelers released this statement which basically told us nothing. So it's sit and wait time.

Again.

Update [2007-1-20 18:16:53 by SteelerFan]: Um, so this may not be true. ESPN's Chris Mortensen and John Clayton are reporting that Tomlin has denied the SI account. So, maybe not Tomlin.
The Rooneys have done it again. Instead of hiring a washed-up, recycled old head coach who's never quite got it done, the Steelers hired the 34-year old with no head coaching experience on any level, let alone the NFL.

Tomlin made his mark as the defensive backs coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2001-2005. While in Tampa Bay, Tomlin learned the ins-and-outs of the Cover-2 scheme, often referred to as the 'Tampa 2'. Tomlin brought this knowledge to Minnesota, but added an additional wrinkle by blitzing a bit more than typical Cover-2 schemes. This is exciting for Steelers fans. Who knows what will happen to Dick Lebeau now that Whisenhunt and Cowher are gone, but if he does stay, it should be exciting to see what the two of them can come up with week in and week out.

What else do we know about Tomlin? Well, honestly not that much. I do know that  the Tampa secondary he coached in Super Bowl XXXVIII picked off 5 passes, returning two for touchdowns. As for his previous coaching and playing career? There's not much. Tomlin played WR at the College of William and Mary.  He began his coaching career as a WR coach at the Virginia Military Institute. He then moved on to Arkansas State where he was both a WR and a defensive backs coach. Tomlin finished his time  in the collegiate ranks at the University of Cincinnati.

It is interesting that Tomlin has coaching experience, albeit limited and at small universities, on both sides of the ball. In other words, he's not strictly a defensive mind. I do think he will need to relegate play-calling duties to an experienced offensive coordinator, but it's good to know that he's somewhat multi-dimensional in his experience.

Tomlin has big shoes to fill. There have only been two Steelers coaches in the past seven centuries, and Tomlin most certainly is aware of the expectations that come along with the Steelers head coaching job. At the same time, Tomlin should remember that the Rooneys aren't the type to pull the plug on a head coach without giving him ample time to prove his meddle.  Because of his lack of experience as a head coach, I am a bit worried about how he will handle certain aspects of the new gig. What kinds of assistants will he be able to lure to Pittsburgh? Will seasoned veteran coaches like LeBeau be interested in working with a hot-shot 34 year old? Who will do the play calling? How will he handle end-of-game and end-of-half clock management situations? Will he be able to command the respect of all his players, some of whom will be close to his age, if not older?

Fortunately for Tomlin, most of the ingredients are already there for him. The Steelers are still just a year removed from the Super Bowl, there is no salary cap disaster on the horizon, and many of our star players are still right in the midst of their physical prime. Perhaps a fresh intense personality like Tomlin is just what the Dr. ordered for this Steelers team. We'll see.

Thoughts on the hire?