Players pleased with Tomlin's deal
The Steelers are expected to transition rather easily from one of the oldest teams in the NFL to one with several young players who will affect the team's hopes of making another playoff run.
Of course, the key to the team's success or failure depends largely on how well coach Mike Tomlin manages his personnel, including the team's top draft picks — offensive linemen David DeCastro and Mike Adams.
Steelers president Art Rooney II is convinced Tomlin is the man for the long haul. So he inked the 40-year-old to a three-year contract extension through the 2016 season.
“I'm honored the contract extension got done,” Tomlin said after putting the Steelers through conditioning tests Wednesday at St. Vincent College.
Tomlin, who led the Steelers to victory against Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII, is likely to be driven this season by his team's bitter playoff defeat to Denver in January. He may have nothing to prove after two Super Bowl appearances, but the players sense he's hungry to secure the Steelers a seventh title.
“Everyone knows what kind of guy (Tomlin) is, and he's probably going to be around here for a long time,” backup quarterback Byron Leftwich said. “To me, he's one of the best coaches I've ever been around. Evidently the Rooneys believe that also. We all know what we have in Coach Tomlin.”
Doug Legursky, who split time at guard and center last season, said Tomlin's extension reflects the team's dedication to continuity.
“He's a great coach and well deserving of that contract extension,” he said. “The Steelers are a team that always keeps its coaches for a long time, especially with the record he has and the intensity he brings to the team.
“(The Steelers) are always thinking about keeping continuity intact. As players we've had a good relationship with Coach Tomlin and vice versa. He embodies the Pittsburgh Steelers perfectly, so it's not surprising he'll be around.”
Tomlin earned the extension, in part, because the Steelers finished 12-4 last season. And the Steelers advanced to the postseason for the fourth time in five seasons.
“I hope as long as I'm here, he's here,” said second-year defensive end Cameron Heyward, last year's No. 1 draft pick. “I'm going to work at getting my extension.”
Again, the Steelers will rely heavily on a defense that three times has been ranked No. 1. Yet even with DeCastro and Adams expected to strengthen the offensive line, Tomlin is without two pivotal offensive threats: wide receiver Mike Wallace (contract holdout) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee injury).
Tomlin said he's prepared to work with what he's got. Unlike last season's camp, he has plenty of depth on the offensive line.
“We've got a lot of good competition on the line,” Legursky said. “We're all about figuring out what it takes to win ballgames.”
Ralph N. Paulk is staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7923.