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

Belichick discusses risk of exposing players to waiver claims

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Belichick discusses risk of exposing players to waiver claims

Bill Belichick knows the data. Knows the risk involved in exposing a player to a waiver claim at this time of the year and long ago came to the uneasy truce that you can’t keep ‘em all and somebody else might snag ‘em.

This summer, the Patriots don’t have a mass of easy releases, especially among their rookies and first-year players.

There are a lot of very intriguing players who’ve looked good either in practices, games or both. Good enough to make the Pats think twice about whether they want to leave them exposed.

Top of mind for me there are corners Jonathan Jones and Cre’Von LeBlanc, linebacker Elandon Roberts, wide receiver DeAndre Carter, defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton and running back D.J. Foster who appear to be right on the roster bubble but are impressive.

“It’s something you take into consideration, it’s a hard thing to predict,” Belichick said when asked about weighing the risk of a released player the Patriots would like to re-sign to their practice squad getting claimed. “There’s going to be, I don’t know, certainly going to be a lot of players, probably over 1,000 players that will be exposed to waivers in the next eight calendar days or whatever it’ll be. I think the average claim is somewhere in the high 20s there…so that’s what the odds are. We’ve had years where we haven’t had any of our players claimed and we’ve had years where we’ve had multiple players claimed. I think at the end you just have to do what you think is best for your team.”

Belichick has given us terrific insight this week into how he and Nick Caserio strategize their roster decisions. When asked about the team’s releases in advance of the cutdown deadlines, Belichick mentioned the team wanted to have the ability to accommodate new players who may come available.

Enter the Barkevious.

He also got into projecting young players against established performance levels of veterans and weighing current contributions against future ones.

"That’s the $64,000 question," Belichick said on Tuesday. "That’s what it is. It’s been like that since the day I got into this league. From all of the personnel meetings I’ve ever been in it’s a [matter of] a player who’s more experienced [and] more ready to help the team now, versus a player that’s not as ready now but at some point you think the pendulum will swing in his favor. Will you do that? Can you do that? What are the consequences of making that move? What are the consequences of not making that move? How likely, as you said, is it that you could keep both players in some capacity?

"That’s what it’s about, trying to balance now with later. We’re going to field a team in November, we’re going to field a team next year, we’re going to field a team in 2018. Not that we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we’re going to be in business in those years, so we have to sort of have an eye on those moving forward and a lot of the other factors that go into that. Those are all tough decisions. They’re all things that you really have to think about."

As is the risk of having a player scooped.

“It’s pretty hard to predict what’s going to happen when you put players on the wire because in all honesty, you don’t know what the other [31] teams are going to do and who they’re going to put on the wire,” Belichick explained. “Even though you put a player out there that you don’t want to lose, if another team happens to put a player out there that may be a team that needs that position and would be better with your player, your player gets claimed. Sometimes we waive players that we didn’t think would get claimed and they were, so that’s really hard to predict.

“In the end, you’ve got to make the decision that you feel like is best for your football team, and if you really want that player and you just can’t bear to live without them, then you shouldn’t be exposing them to the wire,” he concluded. “That’s the reality of it. We keep an eye on them, but I don’t think it’s an overriding factor. If you’re prepared to waive them, then you’ve got to be prepared to lose them. That’s just the way it is.”

Belichick considering using Jones as the No. 1 punt returner

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Belichick considering using Jones as the No. 1 punt returner

Back in May, when the Patriots drafted Cyrus Jones in the second round, Patriots director of player personel Nick Caserio made it very clear: Jones' ability to return punts is what made him their favorite player available at pick No. 60.

"I think the thing that tipped the scales in Cyrus’ favor a little bit," Caserio said at the time, "was his overall versatility -- punt return -- that’s a huge component of what we do and we thought he had the ability."

Jones broke out with a 60-yard return on Friday against the Panthers, flashing the kind of explosion in the kicking game that the Patriots anticipated when they made him their first selection this year. 

Though Jones has admitted he has had his share of issues securing the football during punt-return periods in practice, he has not dropped a punt in a preseason game. And in a conference call on Saturday, Bill Belichick acknowledged that Jones could be the team's primary punt returner in Week 1 even though the team employs two accomplished players who have performed that well in the past. 

"Yeah, I think that’s a consideration," Belichick said of using Jones as the No. 1 returner. "Obviously, Danny [Amendola] and Julian [Edelman] have a lot of experience returning punts for us as well as kickoffs in the past. We’ll see how it goes, but we have good depth at that position and that’s always a good thing to have.

"We have confidence in all of those guys back there. Last night we even had D.J. [Foster] who got a chance to handle the ball. We’ll see how it goes going forward, but I think we have good competition and good depth at that position."

Saving Edelman and Amendola from further wear-and-tear could help extend the careers of both 30-year-old receivers. Not long after Jones was drafted, we took a look at how many hits Edelman and/or Amendola could be saved on a weekly basis by using Jones in the kicking game.

Belichick: Patriots play to win in preseason...kind of

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Belichick: Patriots play to win in preseason...kind of

When you check out the Patriots-Panthers game notes on Patriots.com, the lead bullet point is one of the least interesting: "The New England Patriots are off to a 3-0 start in the preseason for the sixth time in team history . . . and for the second time under Bill Belichick."

Belichick and the Patriots went undefeated in preseason play back in 2003. One of the best teams in Patriots history, that group went on to win the franchise's second Super Bowl in three years. 

It's the preseason, though, so who cares about wins and losses? Well, Belichick does. During a conference call on Saturday he was asked if it was a big deal for him and his team to be winning these preseason games, and he responded by explaining his approach to exhibition football.

"I think what we tell our players and coaches is that we’re going to coach and play to win," he said. "We’re obviously not going to pull out all the stops in terms of every trick play we’ve ever used or things like that, but whatever the situation calls for, we’re going to play it as competitively as we can play it given the limitations that we have and based on the amount of experience our players have in the game at that certain point and what we’ve been able to cover."

It makes sense. Obviously teams don't want to reveal any surprise sets they may have saved for the regular season. And coaches aren't going to get exotic with their defensive calls or their offensive formations at this time of year. What basic plays they do run, however, they would like to execute successfully.

They want to win the fight, but they're going to try to do it with their jab and straight right. The combinations and the counters will have to wait.

"We haven’t covered every single thing that we would want to cover or hope to cover to start the season, especially situational football," Belichick added. "But as far as competing and playing, we’re doing everything we can to win., but within the context of doing what we’re capable of doing right now. We’re trying to win, we’re trying to do everything as well as we can do it, but not pulling out all the stops in terms of playing time, strategizing and so forth that we would do in the regular season."