Hearing From Coach Mike Tomlin


On concussions, tackling, Madison's return  Throughout the 2009 NFL season, Coach Mike Tomlin will provide his insight and observations to Steelers.com on a variety of topics pertaining to the team and the National Football League.
Q. Recently, Commissioner Roger Goodell announced new guidelines on concussion injuries. Is that going to be a help, or might it make your job more difficult?
A. It probably makes my job tougher in that I'm not a medical expert. There are probably a lot of times and instances during games where things happen to guys – sometimes reported and sometimes unreported. It's less about the rule itself and more about how we're practically going to get the rule applied. Guys have to communicate with us, and there are going to be some discussions that are going to need to be had for that.
Q. Might players not be honestly forthcoming with these types of injuries?
A. Absolutely, because that's the kind of competitive spirit these men possess. You would like to think that would not be the case, but in reality that probably is going to be the case.
Q. Was the signing of Anthony Madison a signal that the kick coverage units are still not where they need to be?
A. It's more of a sign that we're going to continue to be committed to improving them. He became available to us. He wasn't available in recent weeks because he had been employed by Indianapolis and Cleveland before that. When we had an opportunity to go and get him, we did.
Q. If you were speaking at a coaching clinic, how would you describe good tackling?
A. It starts with good position. Closing on the runner, coming to balance – not breaking down – coming to balance. Being in good knee and ankle flexibility in terms of body position.
Q. At what levels of football is tackling taught?
A. Every level, hopefully. It's not something that you stop teaching. I've coached college football, and tackling is a fundamental element of skill development. I've coached professional football, and it's a fundamental skill that you must develop. It's something that you must continually talk about and hone. It's very similar to a guy who plays golf going to the driving range.
Q. How is tackling taught differently at the college and professional levels?
A. I've approached it the same. A lot of times attire dictates the amount of physical work that you get at working on tackling, but so much of good tackling is putting yourself in position to tackle. So even when you're not dressed in full pads or when you're not tackling in practice, you can coach the minute details of the approach. Usually, when a guy takes a good approach and comes to balance and is in good position in relationship to the ball-carrier, very rarely do they miss tackles.
Q. When it comes to coaching tackling, have you ever had to warn your players about the potential dangers of seeking an ESPN-highlight hit at the possible expense of just getting the runner on the ground?
A. More than anything, you coach those mentalities or approaches off video. You need visual examples of situations, but so much of it is instinctual. You have to guard against over-coaching, if you will. Some things people do innately, understand situations innately. Opportunities for big hits and potentially dislodging the ball, as opposed to situations when you're in open grass and you just need to secure the tackle.

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