Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Man of Steel
Published January 29, 2009

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney has trusted his franchise with African American head coach Mike Tomlin and in two years he has reward his owner with a berth in Super Bowl XLIII


Two years ago when Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney named a replacement for retired long-time coach Bill Cowher you could hear a pin drop as the pro football community was so quiet.

In 2003 the NFL established the 'Rooney Rule' named for the chairman of the league's diversity committee to force franchises to interview at least one minority candidate for its head coaching vacancies.

Rooney is the most respected owner of the entire league, an EF Hutton type that when he speaks people listens, but many were in a state of silent shock when Rooney himself selected then 34-year-old Mike Tomlin to lead his Rolls Royce franchise.

Tomlin became the 10th African American head coach in the history of the NFL when he took over the Steelers in 2007.

Now in just his second season at the helm, he will be leading the franchise in the NFL with the most Super Bowl victories (five) against a team (Arizona Cardinals) which has never even played in one.

There are more real story lines to go around for this Super Bowl than can be compiled in a reporter's notebook, but Tomlin is a huge one.

He will be the youngest coach to ever lead his team to the Super Bowl, the third Black head coach, and can become the second Black to win the most popular sporting event in the world.

Including Tomin, there are six Black coaches in the NFL: Marvin Lewis of Cincinnati, Lovie Smith in Chicago, Mike Singletary of the San Francisco, Jim Caldwell of the Indianapolis Colts and Raheem Morris of Tampa Bay.

However rarely does a Black inherit a job with an elite franchise as the Steelers. The Bengals in Cincy are among the worst franchises in the league, the once fabled Bears were reeling when Smith took over, Singletary has infused hope into the woeful 49ers, Morris takes over a solid Tampa Bay team and Caldwell was the coach in waiting to replace the stable hand of Tony Dungy in Indy.

However Romeo Crennell was canned in Cleveland after the Browns struggled mightily and Herm Edwards was fired in Kansas City with a core of young and inexperienced players.

There is little wonder why many of those franchises continue to struggle to achieve any level of consistent success because the coaching turnover ratio is high and every owner wants a quick fix to their mess.

Not so in Pittsburgh where Tomlin is only the third head coach since 1969 and already has a higher winning percentage than Hall of Fame Steelers coach Chuck Noll and Cowher.

A former defensive backs coach under Dungy's treasured coaching tree, Tomlin spent five seasons as defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings from 2001-05 before he landed the Steelers gig.

After leading the Steelers to the postseason as a rookie coach in 2007, this season began with the daunted task of the Steelers facing arguably the most competitive schedule in the history of the league.

The former standout wide receiver for William & Mary where he had 101 receptions for 2,053 yards and 20 touchdowns, Tomlin has taken the expected success of the Steelers in stride.

On the day of the historical presidential inauguration of President Barack Obama, he postponed his press conference so that he would not interfere.

Tomlin has said that his achievements pale greatly in comparison to what President Obama has achieved.

He is a man who clearly understands and respects his position as a coach of the Steelers and the history of America.

Immediately after the Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens for the third consecutive time to advance to the Super Bowl XLIII, Tomlin told reporters he will have to get right back into the lab and go to work.

Success for Tomlin has come so fast, but he is bright enough to not allow the opportunity slip past him, and wise enough to know that in a town of winners and hard workers such as Pittsburgh, the only thing that's important after winning this one is winning the next one.

Categories: Football

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