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

Patriots get roster exemption for Ebner, add TE Pascoe and OL Halapio

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Patriots get roster exemption for Ebner, add TE Pascoe and OL Halapio

FOXBORO -- The Patriots, as expected, have been given a roster exemption for safety Nate Ebner. Therefore, while Ebner is playing for the USA Rugby Men's Sevens team in the Rio Olympics, his spot will not count against New England's 90-man roster. 

"I’ve talked to Nate several times," coach Bill Belichick said on Wednesday. "Wish him well in his endeavor. It’s a great opportunity for him to follow his passion, participate in the Olympic Games. We’re pulling for him to bring back something around his neck."

With the roster exemption, the Patriots found themselves at 88 players on their roster. In order to fill their last two openings, they signed offensive lineman Jon Halapio and tight end Bear Pascoe, Belichick announced. 

Halapio, a product of the University of Florida, was a sixth-round selection by the Patriots in 2014. He was released at the end of training camp that year, and he later landed on the Broncos practice squad in December of 2014. Before the start of last season, Halapio signed with the Cardinals. He was released on Sept. 5. 

In between NFL gigs, Halapio has spent time with the Boston Brawlers and the Brooklyn Bolts, both of the Fall Experimental Football League. 

Pascoe, 30, is in his eighth NFL season. He has spent time with the Giants, Falcons and Lions, primarily as a blocking tight end. In his career, the 6-foot-5, 257-pounder has caught 40 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns in 85 career games. 

Ebner will participate in the Olympic rugby competition with Team USA beginning on Aug. 6, and fellow Patriots special teams ace Mathew Slater will be paying attention.

"I’m just so happy for him," Slater said. "And I know why rugby means so much to him, and many of us are familiar with the situation with his father, and his father obviously introduced him to the game of [rugby]. So, that connection with father and son is bigger than sport itself.

"I know this means a great deal to him and we’re all excited for him. I’m just trying to figure out where I can get my Ebner rugby jersey. I’ll be supporting him and watching him along the way."

McDaniels: Garoppolo still a long way from a 'finished product'

McDaniels: Garoppolo still a long way from a 'finished product'

FOXBORO -- As the Patriots move forward with their process of preparing Jimmy Garoppolo for Week 1 of the regular season, there's plenty of refining the third-year quarterback needs to make to his game. 

But that's what training camp is for, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels explained on Wednesday.

"We're a long way from where we want to be in terms of the finished product in terms with he and a lot of guys on our team," McDaniels said. "There's nobody that's as good as we can make them. We're excited to have the opportunity to work with all of those guys and try to improve everything we can."

And while the goal this summer is to help Garoppolo improve as much as possible, it's not to turn Garoppolo into Brady. They are different players with different strengths and weaknesses, and McDaniels acknowledged that things within the Patriots offense may have to be tweaked for the first month of the season in order to take advantage of Garoppolo's game.

"It's smart football and good coaching, I think, to play to the talents that the players on the field have," McDaniels said. "And our job over the course of five or six weeks here is to try to identify what those are in each player, and as our unit kind of gels and grows together, we'll figure out exactly what it is that we do best.

"Hopefully that's what we're doing most of. We never wanna put guys n a position where they don't feel comfortable with what they're doing. It's too competitive. There's too many good players and too many good coaches. If you're trying to do too much of that, you're going to put yourself in a bad position."

Garoppolo seen plenty of work as Tom Brady's backup over the last two years, both within the Patriots offense and as the "look team" quarterback, impersonating the likes of Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Now, as Bill Belichick explained on Wednesday, Garoppolo's development as the team's starter is a priority.

How far Garoppolo has to go before he's ready remains to be seen. But McDaniels seemed to indicate that if Garoppolo can continue on the track he's been on in terms of his desire to improve, he'll be where he needs to be when he needs to be there. 

"He's worked extremely hard," McDaniels said. "He's gotten a lot of opportunities in his first two-plus years here, in practice and in spring football. This will be his third opportunity at training camp. He's got a great work ethic. He's got a great approach. He tries to get better and improve every day, and he's made progress." 

He's made so much progress that Belichick didn't even venture to get into the details of the road the Eastern Illinois product has traveled since arriving as a second-round pick in 2014.  

"Experience, everything," Belichick said. "It’s everything. All of the things that go into playing football: preparation, execution, knowing the opponent. We could sit here and talk about it for a day. Everything."

Garoppolo's teammates have noticed his progression as well. While both safety Devin McCourty and special teams ace Matthew Slater were careful not to compare Garoppolo to Brady, they praised the work they've seen behind the scenes from the backup-turned-starter. 

"The cool thing seeing Jimmy, I was a veteran when he was coming in," McCourty said. "You see a rookie, he's just been developing. Each time he steps on the field, he gets better and better so I think it's probably very exciting for him knowing the work he's put in. 

"And I think for other guys on the team, you know he's a hard worker so I don't think it's worries or anything like that. He's a confident kid, and he's been out here practicing hard. We see him a lot all throughout the year when he's on the look squad and being different quarterbacks . . . It's tough for me to really break him down and compare him. I think Jimmy's just a guy who's come in here and learned everything he could under Tom and just keeps getting better."

"I know that he's been working hard, just like the rest of us have," Slater said. "He's prepared himself for a moment to play since he got in this league. He's worked hard for it. We believe in his talent and his abilities, and we know he's going to go out and give us everything he has."