Mike Tomlin: Pittsburgh Head Coach

Mike Tomlin at the Monday press conference

RSJ Update: Late Sunday night, AP reported that Mike Tomlin has agreed to become the next head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

This post was originally written the weekend before Mike Tomlin was named the Steelers head caoch.


What a mess. Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin will be named the new head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, according to SI.com, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen (a former colleague in ATL), the Pitsburgh Post-Gazette and a flurry of sites. Late Saturday, Tomlin, 34, was still saying the news is “untrue,” telling ESPN.com that he has not talked to the Rooneys. But the Post-Gazette reported Sunday that the Steelers had finally spoken to Tomlin and were negotiating a four-year deal with an option year.

Conflicting reports were rampid. Some stated Tomlin was the man. Others said the Steelers were still undecided between Tomlin and Pittsburgh assistant Russ Grimm. Yet another report – this one from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – said Grimm is the guy. Why all the confusion? Some said the Steelers did not want to take light away from the conference championship games by naming their coach today. (Note to Rooneys: Way too late on that one.)


Nothing again Grimm, but I hope Tomlin gets the nod. The NFL, lauded for its progress in hiring non-white coaches, lost two black coaches during this off-season and gained none when Arizona, Atlanta and Miami filled its vacancies. Only Pittsburgh and Oakland remained to fill their top headsets


Two steps forward, one step back. All teams have complied with the Rooney Rule to interview at least one non-white candidate but none have thus far hired anything other than white men. The Rooney Rule only applies to head coaching vacancies but it should also apply to coordinator positions. Those are key spots from which head coaches are often plucked and if non-white coaches fill their staffs with non-white coordinators, well, we’ve seen that movie.


Tomlin would be a surprise hire to many. He was not highly touted at the beginning of the NFL firing/hiring season. But the Vikings defense was one of the league’s most effective and he has clearly impressed the Rooneys. He’s quietly operated under the radar, which is often the best thing for us. You can’t be locked in the cross-hairs if no one knows you’re there. Now he’s been touted as “the man” in Pittsburgh and I’m sure Tomlin was hoping on Saturday – as any black man would – that being thrust into the light prematurely wouldn’t hurt him. From what I hear of the Rooneys, it won’t. They’ve talked the talk. Now let’s see if they walk the walk.


20 thoughts on “Mike Tomlin: Pittsburgh Head Coach

  1. arleen says:

    why does white and black have anything to do with it – i dont understand. a progressive coach isnyt defined by his skin color, rather his coaching prowess. i really have never understood the minority hiring deal. someone explain it to me…please.

  2. Pittsburgh 1969 says:

    As a life long Steeler fan and one that has only known two coaches in my 37 years, I can only say this: I have and will contiue to trust the Rooney Family to make the right decision on OUR next coach. If they took a chance on a little known coordinator named Bill Cowher why not do the same with little known Mike Tomlin. Black or White who cares?? C’mon the only issue should be what is best for the Black and Gold. If Mike is the man then I am behind him 100%. Good luck Mike! Here we go Steelers here we go!!!!!!!!!!

  3. dwil says:

    A source in Pittsburgh told me that the Steelers weren’t trying to dim the luster of the championship games by announcing the Tomlin hiring…. you can check it on Sports On My Mind. Now, just after I posted a bio I write about him four hours ago I just saw ESPN report the hiring like 10 minutes ago.

  4. BigSwede says:

    But, the Pittsburgh Review-Tribune is reporting that Russ Grimm has been offered and has accepted the job. So, which is true?

  5. Rush Propst says:

    you continue to kill my slowly with the death of a thousand cuts.

    Obviously, I hope Chris and SI.com are right. The NFL, lauded for its progress in hiring non-white coaches, has lost two black coaches during this off-season and gained none when Arizona, Atlanta and Miami filled its vacancies. Only Pittsburgh and Oakland remained to fill their top headsets

    Two steps forward, one step back. All teams have complied with the Rooney rule to interview non-white coaches but none have thus far hired any. The Rooney Rule only applies to head coaching vacancies but it should also apply to coordinator positions. Those are key spots from which head coaches are often plucked and if non-white coaches fill their staffs with non-white coordinators, well, we’ve seen that movie.

    I am speechless Roy.

  6. Rush Propst says:

    That should be “me” not “my”. Either way, please make it stop Roy. This is sounding like you are supporting an antiquated and controversial hiring system…..I think you are smarter than that…

  7. SJH says:

    He becomes the league’s youngest (34) and its 6th active black head coach. I’m happy about that and I wish him well. Hopefully he’s articulate and a good in-game strategist. We need someone to offset Herman Edwards.

    Tangent #1: I hate the rule about minority interviews, though. It gets a black coach’s foot in the door, but it means nothing if that foot is just allowed in for show. That leads to a lot of empty, perfunctory interviews. Ted Cottrell, in 2003 refused to go for the interview with the 49ers because he – and everyone – knew that Dennis Erickson was who they wanted. What’s the point? Like, “Teddy, we’ve got no intention of hiring you, but the league said we have to interview a negro, so fly out 2,700 miles for nothing.”

    Tangent #2: You know there’s fewer black offensive coordinators than head coaches, right? With Maurice Carthon out of the league, I don’t think there are any black OCs. How come every black guy coaches defense?

    Tomlin doesn’t have much experience. He was an assistant in Tampa from 2001-05 (one season under Tony Dungy) and became the Vikings defensive coordinator just last year. They had the 14th ranked defense (20.4 points), up for 20th in 2005, so he did a pretty good job.

    But I don’t understand why the Steelers had been hesitant (maybe reluctant) to promote Ken Whisenhunt, and then quickly hire Mike Tomlin. Tomlin is less experienced – with the league and the team – and not only will he have to get acclimated to a new organization (with big expectations) and surroundings and get used to being a young, first time head coach (following Bill Cowher), but he’s gonna have to make schematic adjustments.

    Going back to his first NFL gig, he’s been coaching the 4-3 defense. Tampa ran Dungy’s Cover 2 from 4-down and the Vikings used a lot of Cover 4 and standard man under from 4-down (with the “Williams Brothers” at DT). Pittsburgh has run the 3-4 for the longest and has drafted & signed players in accordance. With guys like Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, Joey Porter, James Farrior and Clark Haggans, a switch to the 4-3 doesn’t allow them to utilize their strengths. Smith is a 300-pound defensive end. Right now, his job is occupy the tackle and control his gap, but in a 4-3, he becomes a pass rusher. He doesn’t have the speed and quickness for that (averages 4 sacks per season) so his value diminishes. Joey Porter, a Pro Bowl OLB, becomes a weak side linebacker. That would limit the number of times he rushes the QB and give him more coverage assignments. That’s his weakness.

    So either Tomlin is gonna keep the 3-4 and go away from what he knows best or they’ll change the personnel to accommodate him – which would take years and cost a lot. Either way, it’s not a perfect fit in terms of concept.

    The bright side: Eric Mangini switched the Jets to a 3-4, ignoring the fact that they don’t have a nose tackle and their ILB is 230 pounds, and they finished 6th in points allowed.

  8. I will not stop, Rush, until there is equality in hiring in every facet of our society – including the NFL. I do not mean equal results, but equal access to the opportunities. Before the Rooney Rule was implemented because non-white coaches – capable and qualified non-white coaches – were simply not getting to look owners in the eye and make their cases for being hired. With the RR, at least these men are getting their say. Some get hired, some don’t. And I’m sorry if it “cuts” you that I speak out with passion on this. It “cuts” me when I see white coaches with mediocre records getting hired while non-white coaches with experience, talent and leadership qualities are ignored. And yes, if the league had lost to black coaches and gained none this season, well, i’m sorry,rush then that is not a good thing from my view. Rev. Dr Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Sorry, friend, I can’t please you on this one.

  9. Rush Propst says:


    Equal access, I agree with you. But to hire a coach because he is white or black just to make a point is as wrong as 2 boys kissing.

    I work in the US’s largest EO employer. Equal access works just fine for all

  10. Rush Propst says:

    I guess I am have trouble discerning your stance here, roy. Hire him because he is black? Or ensure he has the opportunity to compete and be selected if he is best qualified?

    Help me Roy

  11. Rush, show me anywhere I said hire someone “because he’s black.” That’s ludicrous. Obviously, the Rooneys (fi they do indeed hire him) feel he’s the best qialified candidate and I’m happier about that than I am the hiring of Cam Cameron because he (and I) are black. If they don’t hire him, fine. It looks like Minnesota might promote him rather than risk losing him again. Either way, I’m happy for the man. Too many of us do not get the opportunity for positions when we are equally qualified so, yes, we root for those among us to do get rewarded for their excellence.

  12. A lot of you like to take comfort in your “who cares if he’s black, white or whateverness”. For a lot of people, the illusion that they care only about fairness, let’s people pat themselves on their backs about how colorblind they are. They don’t see race, they see people! For these people, they’ll reinerate that merit is the only determiner for a person getting a job. And we all know that that’s a load of crap. I’m black, and I see race just I see a person’s nose, hair, and height. And because of race, I draw conclusions that are diametrically opposed to the “colorblind” folks. See, I don’t assume white=competent. In fact, when it comes to the NFL, I assume white=incompetent. Why? Mainly because most of the teams fail to make the playoffs, which is a failure, and since these teams are overwhelmingly run by white coaches and white GMs, why wouldn’t I associate white with failure?

    I know that on the face of it, that may see unfair, mainly because there are black coaches who fail to make the playoffs, and who should be thought of as failures also. Fair enough. Whites are never questioned about their own inherent competence. It’s assume that if they get an interview, they’re qualified. It is only when black candidates are brought up for a potential job is this high standard broached. Matt Millen, Nick Saban, Dave Shula, and Steve Spurrier are/were spectacular failures. People may now ask why they were hired, but none were questioned at the time of their interviews.

    Like the rest of society, the NFL had to legislate against its own bias in order to get African American coaches into a pipeline that the NFL understood it had closed off. Institutions consciously create racial barriers, like the NFL prohibiting blacks from the league, and they also consciously dismantle them. But these barriers are put there for a reason, and the speed in which they either uphold or dismantle them has to have an internal or external motivation. Hence for the NFL, the Rooney rule.

    African American coaches have consistenly had to wait an inordinate amount of time before getting their first chance. Tony Dungy, Marvin Lewis, Lovie Smith, etc. all had to prove themselves as coordinators for YEARS before getting a shot. While a Sean Payton, gets a shot relatively young. Mike Singletary, Joe Greene, etc. do they get interviews?

    I’m not one to worry about whether or not white folks like how a black coach got a job. Seriously. Because I know that white mediocrity in this country is as American as George W. Bush, the adage in every black household since slavery has been in order to get the same opportunity as a white person, you need to be twice as good because of the inherent bias. So anyone black who gets as far as interviewing for an NFL head coaching job is already ahead on the merit issue. It’s just whether or not the person hiring is twice as smart.

  13. wyclefdoug says:

    I wrote what I thought about this situation over on my blog. Ya’ll should check it out.

  14. R.C Miller says:

    I believe racism is alive and well, but I also believe the media is fully responsible for feeding it. If he were Irish American or LIthuanian American would the newspapers acknowledge that, I highly doubt it .

  15. Daryl says:

    Considering the historical racial legacy of America, we all would be amiss if we pretended that the racial exclusion of the darker hue did not exist. Yes, racism is alive and doing well. If it was not for Affirmative action, many qualified African Americans would never, ever, get an opportunity. I fully support Roy’s position. A qualified African American should be given the opportunity to display his/her talents. Without the NFL’s minority interview policy, these owners would never interview or hire a qualified African American head coach. We do not have to be philosophical and politically correct. Let’s just be real!

  16. arleen says:

    from what i am reading above there will soon be another rooney rule calling for more black offensive coordinators, more black offensive line coaches, a shorter waiting period for black head coaches. come on guys. do you think the owners in the nfl really hire what they believe to be less qualified white coaches…i dont. sean peyton didnt wait as long as singletary for a reason – hes a great coach…as illustrated this year.

  17. Daryl says:

    How would have Sean Peyton done with the Arizona Cardinals? Personnel is a major part of the equation. Some teams would win if Litttle Alvin and the Chipmonks were the coaches. Let’s come up with a “solid” example to support your argument.

  18. JBH says:

    I find it interesting that Dennis Greene declined an interview request for the Oakland Raiders. That shows how far progress has come.

    In the case of the Cardinals, I believe it is more than personnel, it is Organization also. Look how the organization failed in Cincinnati until the daughter of the owner convinced the Father to let the new HC run it and not the owner. Same thing in Dallas, owners who meddle are not good for teams.

    Off the top of my head, every winning organization has a strong supporting owner who puts a strong front office in place to support the HC.

    I like the Mike Tomlin hire. He is young and filled with new ideas. I wish him the best for my beloved Steelers.

    I do not want more Rooney Rules for coordinators, I hope that as we as a society evolves, these issues will dissipate. They will never completely go away, but we are progressing slowly.

    When a coach gets an NFL job, he is going to hire the best coordinators he can find because it is the HC who has to answer for the teams performance. I do not believe that most people look at race, they look at who can help me reach my goal, who has helped me over the years and who do I trust the most. So, whites have most experience with whites and non-whites may have just the opposite or a mixture throughout their career. It’s that way in the rest of the world, why not in coaching. We should expect white HC to hire white coordinators because that is who they know, or have had most experience with.

    Time and patience will fix this, not 21st century forced integration in NFL.

  19. michael says:

    come on arleen! nfl owners hire less qualified h/coaches who are white all the tme. I’ll throw a few names at you for example; cam cameron, dick juaron, mike malarkey, lane kiffin, dave wandstedt, norv turner, steve spurrier, jim haslett etc,,; you throw a name like sean peyton and the ratio is not in your favor. 32 teams 70 % with .500 or below records. Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith SUPER BOWL!!!!!!!!

  20. michael says:


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