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Deciphering Mike Tomlin’s Bookshelf

Coach’s library is stuck in the past.

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I’m always looking to get as much insight as possible when Coach Tomlin speaks. So when he posted his thoughts on NFL siblings on Instagram, I became fascinated with the books he keeps in his office.

I took a closer look at the titles on his bookshelf. After some serious sleuthing, I kinda wonder if Tomlin has done any redecorating in the 16 years since he came to town. The can of Iron City beer isn’t the only thing Bill Cowher may have left behind. This reading list hasn’t been updated in nearly 30 years! Let’s take a look at his collection.

Coach’s Library
@coachtomlin on Instagram

1) Game Plans for Success by Ray Didinger

There were two copies of this on the shelf. This book from 1995, features interviews with NFL coaches, including Chuck Noll, where they share their team management philosophies.

2) Penguin Profiles by Jim O’Brien

Published in 1994, this isn’t just about the Stanley Cup winning teams of the 90s. It includes stories from all eras.

3) Lost Sundays by Sam Toperoff

Published in 1989, this is a week-by-week chronicle of the Steelers disastrous 1988 season. There were 3 copies of this on the shelf.

4) Doing It Right by Jim O’Brien

Published in 1991, this shares stories about the Steelers since the opening of Three Rivers Stadium. There were 2 copies of this on the shelf.

5) Dare to Dream by Jim O‘Brien

Another O’Brien classic from 1996. In fact, the testimonial from Myron Cope on the book’s jacket reads, “Jim O’Brien is Pittsburgh’s premiere sports historian.” This is about the two seasons that culminated at Super Bowl XXX.

6) Steelers Super Dynasty by Joe Tucker

Tucker was the voice of the Steelers for 32 years. He published this in 1980 as a follow up to his first book, “Steelers Victory After 40,” which documented the first 40 years of the franchise.

7) Greatest Moments in Steelers History by Francis J Fitzgerald

This is a collection of 47 stories from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. It was released in 1996, so there’s probably enough for a volume two by now.

8) Super Steelers: The Making of a Dynasty by Lou Sahadi

Released in 1980, with this foreword from Art Rooney: “Winning is like making Irish Stew. You must blend the ingredients properly. I have no idea how to make Irish Stew, but in sports you must have a blend of good coaching, good players and good luck.”

9) Sporting News Pro Football Guide

Apparently, the Steelers were NOT subscribers to Sports Illustrated. These annual almanacs are all over the shelves.

10) The Running Backs by Murray Olderman

This 600 page book was published in 1969. It’s the second in a series of three football photography & illustration books. It features more than 20 players including Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, Jim Brown and OJ Simpson.

11) The Complete Handbook of Pro Football

These annual scouting reports first hit shelves in 1974. They included more than 300 player and coach profiles, plus complete rosters, schedules and draft info.

12) Impartial Judgment by Jim Tunney

Published in 1988, the so-called “Dean of NFL referees” takes a candid look at the NFL, and how new rules and changes are affecting the game.

13) Winter by Len Deighton

The only work of fiction on the shelf. This novel tells the story of two German brothers during World War II: One becomes an American colonel. The other becomes a top Nazi adviser.

14) The Sky’s the Limit by Wayne Dyer

The 3rd book from the self-help author came out in 1980. It introduced the concept of “The Critical Inch,” the thing you need to get done on your action plan to success.

15) George Halas and the Chicago Bears by George Vassd

Published in 1971, this tells the story of the founder of the Chicago Bears and co-founder of the NFL.

16) Len Dawson Pressure Quarterback with Lou Sahadi

Born the 7th son of a 7th son, Dawson was behind Bobby Layne on the depth chart in Pittsburgh. The future Hall of Famer released this book in 1970 after leading the Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl IV.

17) Where I Stand: the Record of a Reckless Man by Hank Greenspun

The life story of a convicted gun runner who took on Joseph McCarthy and was later the target of the Watergate burglars. A documentary by the same name came out in 2009.

18) Their Deeds and Dogged Faith by Mike Rathet & Don R Smith

Published in 1984, it features prize-winning game pictures from the first 75 years of professional football.

19) How the Pros Play Football by Bill Dudley and Robert Smith

I believe this was written by the same “Bullet” Bill Dudley who was drafted #1 overall by the Steelers in 1942. This was published in 1964, and shares the role of each player on offense and defense with real-game photos and diagrams.

20) The Pro Football Chronicle by Dan Daly and Bob O’Donnell

This 1990 book is a light-hearted look at the NFL’s greatest photos, hardest hits and biggest scandals.

21) Bednarik: Last of the 60 Minute Men by Jack McCallum

This 1977 memoir is from the last man to play both offense and defense for an entire NFL game.

Kyle Chrise is the host of the SCN podcast “What Yinz Talkin’ Bout.” New episodes are released every Thursday.