TAMPA, Fla. - So often football coaches are praised as geniuses for treating the field as their own chess board.
Others gain praise through demonstrative personalities that capture the imagination.
Fair or unfair, Mike Tomlin doesn't gain acclaim in either category.
When he arrived in Pittsburgh 24 months ago, he retained Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator and elevated receivers coach Bruce Arians to offensive coordinator to replace Ken Whisenhunt. Tomlin does nothing to call attention to himself on the sideline.
He could be what Bill Walsh is to offense, or what Bill Belichick is to defense. He could be Vince Lombardi as a motivator, or Bill Parcells as a butt-kicker.
And you wouldn't know it. Why? Because to Tomlin, gaining ownership of a situation doesn't trump the pursuit of bigger things, making him perfect in a Steelers organization grounded on people subjugating egos for the greater good.
An organization where the owners, believe it or not, don't feel the need to have their bios in the media guide.
"The situation that I came into was unique, like they all are," he said last week. "There was a lot that wasn't broken in Pittsburgh. And I wasn't interested in fixing anything that wasn't broken. I'm motivated by winning. I'm singularly focused.
"All the decisions I made were with that in mind."
What the Steelers are has hardly changed over the last four decades. When Pittsburgh triumphs, it happens with tough defense, a grinding running game, and a winner at quarterback.
Tomlin didn't mess with that.
And while he's no control freak, he touches every part of his team.
To see him work at training camp was not unlike watching Belichick work a practice. He bounces from drill to drill and, because he has coached on both sides of the ball, can offer input to each player. He is constantly reminding players to "punch that clock", comparable to Belichick's demand that each man "do his job."
Implicitly, too, it sends the message that no position on the team is more important than the next. Which explains why Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison is out there running down to cover kickoffs, diving to block punts, and blocking for return men.
It also helps to illustrate why this club was so unflappable after blowing a 13-point lead Sunday.
"We never doubted ourselves, not for a second," said Hines Ward. "We stayed the course."
Maybe it has something to do with the steady hand leading them. Or maybe it has a lot to do with that.
In that way, Tomlin has just what his two predecessors in Pittsburgh -- Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher -- brought.
"The one thing that all three have had is a presence to keep the attention of their football team through 20-some weeks that an NFL season lasts," said Steelers president Art Rooney II. "Week-in and week-out, you have to be ready to play, and he has that kind of presence.
"That came through in the first interview. We didn't know him, and he came in and made himself a candidate right then and there."
Tomlin clearly has the potential, like Noll and Cowher did early in their years, to become another beacon of Steelers stability with a long tenure at the helm. He's also tearing down another wall, in that there was barely a mention after the game that he's the second African-American coach in three years to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said it signified "tremendous progress. The good news is that our teams are now exceeding (the requirements of the Rooney Rule) on a voluntary basis. ... They're recognizing the value of conducting a more thorough search."
Meanwhile, Tomlin keeps grinding. At his press conference Monday, he emphasized to the assembled media that his Steelers will not be trying to "repeat" or "defend anything" next year.
And if you must know, yes, he did see this coming.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
See, with every opportunity to bask in his moment at the mountaintop, he called down the slope for everyone else to join him there.
That company, Tomlin says, is what makes all this so meaningful.
So it shouldn't be hard to see why he, and so many around him, are successful.
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