Feeling The Urgency Of Now - By Christopher Stout

Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial

Why does everybody love Mike Tomlin? What is it about this guy that appeals to so many football observers? How come everyone who's anyone believes he's the real deal?

Mike TomlinWell, after searching through various Tomlin quotes, articles and profiles online, I think the number one most intriguing quality of the Steelers new head coach is this: he's remarkably skilled at absorbing and adapting to "the urgency of the now."

Sportswriters and colleagues describe Tomlin as extremely bright. He's a self-proclaimed football historian whose formidable memory and archival skills allow him to recall information at a rapid pace. At the same time, Tomlin is a quick thinker who can anticipate and adjust to what's lies ahead.

Tomlin is incredibly adaptive. People like to pigeonhole this coach as a Tony Dungy-Tampa 2 disciple, but that's not entirely accurate. As he said in his introductory press conference in Minnesota last season, he let's personnel and scheme "shape each other out." Tomlin isn't going to shoe-horn a 4-3 Cover 2 defense into a roster that's been built for a 3-4 approach for more than a dozen years. He'll mix it up. Tomlin is going to adapt his system with the Steelers well-established identity. Retaining LeBeau was a brilliant first step.

What's so important about having such an adaptive coach for a smash-mouth franchise?

"Mike's core values are a good match for our organization," Team President Art Rooney II said before he introduced the new coach to Pittsburgh. "I think he will play the kind of football that Steelers fans have come to appreciate through the years."

Tomlin's "core football values" are so simple, so integral and so congruent to the team's unique personality, that it's easy to understand why the Rooney's love this guy. Tomlin believes in the following principles: "Playing hard. Playing fast," and my favorite: "Living in and feeling the urgency of now." Have you ever heard a more articulate statement come from a coach's mouth? Would you not select this guy in a heartbeat?

Think about how Troy Polamalu plays. Polamalu is one of the most instinctive and adaptive players in the game. He covers so much ground and he gravitates towards ball carriers like a punishment magnet. The secret to Polamalu's dynamism is that he's always "living in and feeling the urgency of the now." His reaction time is measured in milliseconds. He instantly processes the info on the field and makes fast, hard and urgent decisions. That's what Steelers football is all about -- fast, decisive and physical urgency. The fact that Tomlin's approach to football is so similar makes me confident that this guy is going to be great.

You can say what you want about Cowherball, but no matter what happened, you knew that when you watched a Cowher-coached Steelers team, you were going to see a smashing, physical contest. Cowher wasn't a master strategist -- he was a master motivator. From all accounts, Tomlin appears to share this same quality.

Vikings safety Darren Sharper (who was Tomlin's teammate at William and Mary), had nothing but good things to say about his former defensive coordinator's ability to inspire players:

"He's probably motivated this team and the guys around me more than any coach I've ever been around," safety Darren Sharper said. "You can just tell from the results, how we're playing right now as opposed to how this defense played in the past. It's a direct reflection on Mike Tomlin."

Forget about X's and O's and the Tampa 2. Tomlin's ability to absorb, adapt and motivate makes him the ideal choice to succeed the Chin. I really loved Bill Cowher, but when I watched his detached demeanor (in person) on the sidelines of Pittsburgh's debacle in Oakland last season, I knew he was finished. He already packed in, I was sure of it. The man did amazing things for this organization, but his passion was gone. For the short term at least.

What Pittsburgh's players need now is a coach who will shout "play like your hair is on fire," from the sideline. The best thing the Rooney's could have done is to find a coach who understands "the urgency of now."