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'It's about complex relationships among men'

Posted Mar 25, 2014

Within the Steelers, Coach Mike Tomlin wants to create structure without the feel of structure

For years it’s been assumed and accepted that Mike Tomlin wore long sleeves at training camp to set a mind-over-matter example for his players as they were sweating it out in Latrobe.

As it turns out, the real reason is much more pragmatic.

“I just wear long sleeves because I used to work in Tampa, and the sun will kill you, regardless of temperature, to be honest,” Tomlin admitted.

That’s not to say Tomlin doesn’t lead by example and that his actions aren’t ever intended to set a tone, and to create and maintain a culture within the Steelers’ organization. But such actions are often more subtle than long black pants and long black sleeves amid the heat of a training camp at Saint Vincent College.

“I think it’s everything that you do every day,” Tomlin said on the subject this week at the NFL Owners’ Meetings in Orlando. “We are put in a position of leadership. It’s something that I embrace. I think it’s something that our players understand.

“Our business is winning. Our game is football. But at the same time there are other things that come with that – responsibilities – and I think it’s something I embrace and I encourage our guys embrace.”  

Toward that end Tomlin expects his players to meet a standard much more so than he demands they adhere to a specific set of guidelines.

“For me, I want structure without the feel of structure,” he said. “I want everybody in the building to know what it is that we are doing, what our focus is, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, and cultivate an environment that fuels that.

“There are elements of it that you carry over (from one season to the next). Obviously, continuity is something that you benefit from but it’s not something that you take for granted.”

Especially in the wake of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga in Miami, one that shed an uncomplimentary light on what takes place behind the NFL’s curtain and one that likely had most every team reconsidering and re-evaluating its workplace procedures and protocols.

To Tomlin, the issue goes far beyond mere locker room walls.

“I think that ‘room’ per se is a misnomer,” he maintained. “I think what we refer to today as a locker room is something that’s a misnomer. It’s about complex relationships among men. And the big thing is, like we’re all talking about here, it needs to be professional. And the workplace environment is something that is important to us and how we go about our business.

“I expect our guys to be professional and problem-solving in their approach to our business. But at the same time, I understand that individuals are individuals and I want to give them latitude to be that.”

 

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