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Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin: Defensive Mastermind

Mike Tomlin was hands-off when it came to the defense during Dick LeBeau's tenure as defensive coordinator. Now, it appears he will be more involved.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Before Mike Tomlin was the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he was the defensive backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Viking. When he was hired by the Steelers, he was largely hands-off when it came to the defense, instead allowing Dick LeBeau to have near total control.

In training camp this week, Tomlin was seen personally coaching members of the secondary on techniques essential to a Cover 2, of which defensive coordinator Keith Butler said, per Adam Crowley, "It's going to be a big part of what we do this year."

Now that LeBeau is gone, will Mike Tomlin have have a more hands-on approach and steer the defense in a different direction? If he does, it will only benefit the Steelers defense.

When Tomlin was d-backs coach for the Buccaneers, the team led the league in total defense and was consistently in the top six. While he was there, the Buccaneers also won a Super Bowl during which they had five interceptions, including three pick sixes. Tomlin was hired as defensive coordinator for the Vikings in 2006, helping the defense end up eighth in the league.

Tomlin has always been a proponent of a 4-3 defense and was schooled in the art of the Tampa 2 while working for the Buccaneers.

In 2005 Tomlin touted the advantages of the Tampa 2, saying to ESPN:

"That's where the rush and the coverage come together. The way you attack it is vertically. But in order to do that you have to protect, or you have to get a bunch of people out to stress us. If you get people out, we've got one-on-one with the guys up-front. If you keep guys in to protect, we've got enough people in pass defense, and guys are in position to see the ball come out. It allows them to play fast."

After he was hired as head coach, he seemed to have little influence over the defense, implicitly trusting maverick Dick Lebeau, a strategy that yielded strong results early on, and began to disappoint in recent years. The end of the LeBeau era does not only mark the beginning of the Keith Butler era, but also signals the re-involvement of Mike Tomlin on the defensive side of the ball. Tomlin is, and always has been, a defensive guy. Increased involvement will only work to the advantage of the team.