Alan Robinson of the Tribune Review wrote a great feature for Sunday's edition, having interviewed seven different people for a comprehensive State of Mike Tomlin piece. Most interestingly, and featured prominently, is Terry Hammond, a collegiate teammate of Tomlin's at WIlliam & Mary and an Upper St. Clair resident.
He paints a picture drastically different than the Tomlin figure generally accepted in the media.
From messages left by Col. Sam Trautman (the one and only person who can talk sense into John Rambo) to endless conversations with any member of the Steelers' roster, Hammond speaks through Robinson in a humorous tone regarding the Tomlin the media see each week during press conferences - the only coach in the league doing just one media meeting a week.
"He and Pete Carroll (the media-friendly Seahawks coach) are polar opposites," Hammons told Robinson. "I get a kick out of it when I watch (Tomlin's) news conferences because he's different than I know him. Gosh, he's so serious. But he knows how the media works, how they're hanging on every word and how they can make more out of it (than there is)."
The media make way too much out of everything, obviously.
Robinson asked Tomlin about the perception of his job security, a combination of a stable franchise and his youth (only 42 years old, making him both young in terms of his peers as well as heavily experienced), he responded, "I don't assume that." An answer very familiar to fans who get their opinions on the man through the media, but likely very different to Hammond, someone who knows the private side of the man.
Also laced in it is a previously covered connection to Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, the man who replaced Gus Bradley in Seattle this year. Quinn was an assistant at William & Mary during Tomlin's tenure there.
"There was no doubt that you knew this guy was really on the rise," Quinn said. "Mike was the captain of the team, and you knew he had ‘it.' I saw how he led the team and how people gravitated to him."
Leadership sometimes takes on multiple forms and personalities. One can logically conclude there's a certain amount of dread most who are obligated to speak to the media have in the task. Through league-based features on Tomlin, showing him in the locker room or before games or practices, fans can see the kind of Tomlin Hammond is describing. At the same time, many in the media speak of Tomlin as sometimes terse and combative.
All in the rigors of a difficult job; one that Tomlin doesn't feel is his birthright, simply through the combination of tenure and 44 years of very little change at the head coach level. That's probably the right mentality to have. Everyone is one step (pun intended) away from being out of a job, but Tomlin and the Steelers have been smart to gather several ex-head coaches to work under Tomlin this season. Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has been in place from the start and offensive coordinator Todd Haley is entering his third year under Tomlin. Offensive line coach Mike Munchak rounds out the trifecta, having just come off a three-year stretch of leading the Tennessee Titans - a team that beat Tomlin's Steelers twice in three games.
It's a great entry piece into the final week of nothingness before training camp begins. Players are scheduled to report Friday to St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa. Tomlin will be there, both the lighthearted Col. Trautman side, and the serious business guy shown in the media.