Where's the love for Mike Tomlin?

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Where's the love for Mike Tomlin?

By TomE. Curran
CSNNE.com
DALLAS - We've debated all week what three Super Bowl wins before the age of 30 means to the legacy of Ben Roethlisberger. Have you noticed nobody is wondering what two Super Bowl wins before 40 would do for the legacy of Mike Tomlin? Deifying Tomlin, it appears,has not yet made it to the top of the media to-do list.
And that's too bad because people are absolutely missing the boat on what he's doing at the age of 38. In four seasons, Tomlin is 43-21 in the regular season, 5-1 in the playoffs. Since a Wild Card round loss to the Jaguars in 2007, Tomlin's coached the Steelers to five straight playoff wins. He's got a chance tomake it six on Sunday. If hedoes, he'llnot only be theyoungest coach to win a Super Bowl -- which he did in 2008, at 36 -- he'll be the youngest to win two. Chuck Noll and Don Shula both won their second Super Bowls at 44. In 2010, Tomlin's Steelers started 3-1 without Ben Roethlisberger, who was suspended for acting like an idiot. And they started that way despite having traded away their best wideout, Santonio Holmes. The Steelers finished 12-4. Yet when the Associated Press announced its NFL Coach of the Year award on Wednesday, Tomlin didn't get a single vote. Andy Reid, Mike Smith, Steve Spagnuolo and Lovie Smith all got at least one vote. None for Tomlin. It's not hard to figure why Tomlin doesn't get the credit his resume suggests he deserves. He was an out-of-nowhere candidate who'd never been a head coach at any level and was defensive coordinator for a single season in Minnesota (2006) before the Steelers hired him to succeed Bill Cowher. In doing so, they skipped past two beloved Steelers assistants, Russ Grimm and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. The perception has always been that Tomlin was a "Rooney Rule" candidate, a beneficiary of the rule named for Steelers owner Dan Rooney that says each team must interview one minority candidate for every head coaching position. So the notion is out there thatTomlingot moved to the head of the line. But Rooney himself slapped that notion down two years ago. In February of 2009, Rooneytold Newsday, "Mike Tomlin was not part of the Rooney Rule. We had already interviewed Ron Rivera (then the Bears' defensive coordinator), and so that fulfilled the obligation. We went on, had heard about Mike, called him in and talked to him. He was very impressive."Aside from Whisenhunt and Grimm leaving for Arizona, Tomlin kept the Steelers staff pretty much intact when he took over after Cowher's Steelers went 8-8 a season after a Super Bowl win in 2005. That move has ensured that the love and credit for the Steelers defensive success goes to the venerable Hall of Famer, Dick LeBeau. In the media workroom at the Super Bowl, you can find 10-foot tables stacked deep in quote sheets. Every question asked and answered during media access periods is recorded. Questions about LeBeau and his defense dwarfed the number of questions posed about Tomlin. It's funny, when it comes to the Steelers, the assistants and the owners get all the reverence. The head coach and the GM (his name is Kevin Colbert, by the way)? They get very little mention. Asked this week about working with the understated Colbert, Tomlin said, "Kevin is very easy to work with. He and I share the same attitude in that we don't care who gets the credit. We simply want to win."Winning seems a Steelers birthright, regardless of who's in charge - Noll, Cowher or Tomlin. But Tomlin did have to seize this Steelers team in fundamental ways to show a new sheriff was in town. "When Coach Tomlin first got to the Steelers, it was still a lot of Coach Cowher's guys," explained wide receiver Hines Ward. "He was very militant. He wanted to practice two-a-days, full pads, all day long. By the time we got to the playoffs to play Jacksonville, we were a beat-up team. They don't give you a book to show you how to be a head coach."Maybe not, but Tomlin - a second-team All Yankee Conference tight end by the time he graduated William & Mary in 1995 - is a quick study. Because he studies. And creates. He may be one of the most passionate and convincing motivators in the NFL. Bluntly funny in a very Parcellian way. Smart enough to keep it simple. This week, he talked about "under-the-radar" players helping the Steelers. "If you have a helmet on, you're a guy who is capable of making deciding plays," Tomlin boomed. "We don't grade on a curve. If I give any of these guys a helmet on Sunday, I expect them to potentially put themselves in position to be the reason they win. I don't think there is a man in our locker room who doesn't embrace that.""He knows how to let us motivate ourselves and be professionals," said Roethlisberger. "Even if it's just little notes. Before(Super Bowl 43), he wrote on a little card:'Terry Bradshaw - 4; Joe Montana - 4' and helisted the Super Bowls and asked,'Where do you want to fit in this group?' "Never mind where Roethlisberger fits. Shouldn't we start asking where Tomlin fits?
Tom E. Curran canbe reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Butler reaction to Gilmore signing: 'We got another good player'

Butler reaction to Gilmore signing: 'We got another good player'

FOXBORO -- Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium gave reporters their first opportunity to see both Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore on the field at the same time.

Once Gilmore signed with the Patriots earlier this offseason, there was no guarantee he'd actually team up with the 27-year-old in his fourth season out of West Alabama. But Butler wasn't given an offer sheet by the Saints or anyone else, he wasn't traded, and now together they make up one of the most talented cornerback duos in the NFL. 

"Um, nothing much really," Butler replied when asked for his initial reaction to the Gilmore deal. "Nothing much really. We got a better player. We got another player. We got another good player on this team. Anything to help the team win, I'm down with."

Depite the fact that Gilmore is the one who received the big-money contract from the Patriots earlier this year, Butler had nothing but good things to say about his teammate following Thursday's workout. 

"He brings the size and the coverage skills," Butler said. "One of the best guys in the league. Very underrated. [He's] come in, head down, working hard. Just trying to build off each other no matter what."

Butler acknowledged that the corner group, which also includes Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones, has some work to do when it comes to their communication, but he indicated he'll be happy to chip in wherever he's needed. The Patriots could use some help in the slot following Logan Ryan's departure to Tennessee, and Butler said he'd be open to playing inside.

"Wherever they put me, I'm gonna play that role," he said. "I'm ready to play the slot if that's what it is."

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

Does Butler want to be with Patriots beyond 2017? 'Whatever happens, happens'

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Butler came off of the Gillette Stadium practice field to a gaggle of reporters who had been interested in speaking to him all offseason. There had been speculation not too long ago that he'd be traded. There was speculation he might sign elsewhere as a restrcited free agent.

What he would say on those topics might prove to be informative. People were eager to hear from him. But it was what he didn't say that may have been the most interesting part of his first back-and-forth with reporters since Super Bowl LI.

In the rain, in front of a dozen or more microphones, following his team's third organized team activity practice, Butler was asked if he would like to be in New England beyond the 2017 season, the final year of his contract. 

"Can't predict the future," he said. "Whatever happens, happens."

Butler was given several opportunities to say that he'd like to stick with the Patriots for the long term, but he was non-committal. Though his presence on the roster for this season gives the Patriots a supremely talented cornerback duo, the fact that the team gave Stephon Gilmore a lucrative long-term contract this offseason makes Butler's long-term future in New England a bit hazy.

Playing for a restricted free agent tender worth $3.91 million, Butler was asked if it was difficult to separate the business side of things from his on-field performance.

"Not really," he insisted. "Just gotta come here and just play football. You gotta earn everything you want. Gotta come here, work hard each and every day. Nobody's gonna give you nothing."

He added: "Just gotta keep working. Ignore the noise, and just keep working. No matter what. You got a job to do no matter where you're at. Glad to be here to do this job."

Butler received significant interest from the Saints during the offseason, and he made a trip to New Orleans to visit the organization's facilities there. Unwilling to provide Butler with a big-money contract offer and turn over their first-round pick to the Patriots, the Saints decided to cease in their pursuit of the 27-year-old Super Bowl XLIX hero. 

Butler said he didn't wasn't always sure he was going to be in New England for 2017.

"You never know what's gonna happen, I was just sitting back patiently waiting," he explained. "Just doing what I can do, control only what I can control. I'm here now and that's what it is."

That Butler has been at Patriots workouts and OTA practices since signing his tender is an indication that he's ready to throw himself into the upcoming season with his sights set on performing as well as possible in order to put himself in the best position possible when he's scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency at the end of the year. 

"Wasn't gonna hurt nobody but myself if I missed this," he admitted. "This is extra time to get better, and that's what I'm out here to do. To get better and have another great year. Anything to help the team. Present a positive image."