I love [intlink id="86" type="category"]Mike Tomlin[/intlink].
His place in [intlink id="45" type="category"]Pittsburgh Steelers[/intlink] history is almost irrelevant. Chuck Noll was the architect of the greatest team the NFL has ever known. [intlink id="49" type="category"]Bill Cowher[/intlink] set a standard for excellence almost unrivaled in modern football. Granted, Tomlin has appeared in one more Super Bowl and has one more Lombardi in about a third of the time it took Cowher to win his first but let’s remember Tomlin was starting from a much better place than either of his predecessors. Noll inherited a franchise which was the laughingstock of football. Cowher took control of a team which had made only one playoff appearance in seven years.
Comparatively speaking, Tomlin was given the keys to a Ferrari and simply told not to crash it. Building a champion is a lot harder than guiding one to another trophy. The team Tomlin won a Super Bowl with in his second season was for all intents and purposes the same team Cowher won with three years prior. And the team which has appeared in yet another Super Bowl since then is basically the same squad as the first two. The true test of Tomlin’s coaching acumen will come as the Hines Wards and Troy Polamalus fade into retirement and he has to retool the team with a new crop of stars.
Judging by the curb-stomping we saw last Sunday in Baltimore, that day of reckoning may be closer than we think.
Until then, I will revel in the one positive to come out of a miserable performance by the Black and Gold; fresh Tomlinisms. When the Steelers went into their Super Bowl Hangover in 2009, we got the unforgettable “Unleash Hell!” speech from Tomlin. After the debacle in Baltimore, we have this new gem. I’ve heard a lot of hilarious trash talk thanks to NFL Films habit of micing players up but “Grape Squashers” might be the best insult I’ve ever heard.
Granted, the fact I’m Italian and several of my ancestors likely ran around Abruzzi with little purple toes probably makes Tomlin’s analogy fifty times more amusing to me than it actually is. Nah, it’s friggin’ hilarious no matter what your nationality. I mean, try to keep a straight face as you imagine walking up to Maurkice Pouncey or James Harrison and yelling, “GRAPE SQUASHERS!” Although I wouldn’t recommend doing that unless you have a death wish or Obama approved health insurance.
Thank you, Mike Tomlin. Thank you for taking one of the darkest chapters in Steelers history and giving us a reason to smile.