Throughout the 2008 season, Coach Mike Tomlin will answer questions exclusively for Steelers Digest and Steelers.com. The following is one of those sessions. For the complete interview, pick up the latest issue of Steelers Digest.
Q. A lot of Steelers players are involved with charities, and it's especially evident during the holiday season. How does that make you feel?
A. I feel as good about that as I do about our football team and what we do inside the white lines. I embrace the fact that there is a responsibility that comes with being blessed as these young men are blessed. They have a great opportunity and they get exposed to great things because of their football talents, and their willingness to share those experiences and opportunities and revenue, if you will, with other people who are less fortunate, I think it's critical. It lets you know that a lot of them have life in perspective.
Q. Legend has it that Jimmy Johnson once was asked if he would allow an ex-convict to play for him, and Johnson was said to have responded, "What's his 40-time?" Where are you on that issue?
A. I acknowledge we're all human, and we all make mistakes, and we deserve an opportunity to right some of those mistakes. I think that's what this country is based on; I think that's what our judicial system is based on. I'm probably more open-minded than close-minded with regards to some of those things.
Q. Is there is a line that cannot be crossed?
A. Sure there is.
Q. Is it a line that is adjusted based on the individual involved, or is it just a line?
A. I don't think it's based on who the person is or what the person is capable of, I just think, more than anything, it's about a line. It's about that this is a privilege to be a member of this league and be a part of this organization and team, as opposed to it being a right.
Q. You appreciate other sports. You like hockey and attend Penguins games regularly in the offseason. You like basketball and enjoy watching Pitt play. What was it about football that did it for you?
A. Quite honestly, the opportunity to get physical, to roughhouse. I think that's what attracts all boys to the game of football. My boys are going through it right now. Young boys love to be physical, they love to wrestle, they love to push one another. Those who are good at it, enjoy it. I enjoyed it. It's what kept me coming back.
Q. As you progress up the football ladder, the violence of the game increases. How do you reconcile that?
A. I embrace it, I really do. A lot of people don't like to hear that, my wife in particular doesn't like to hear that. But it's the nature of the game, and those who play it and love the game embrace that element of it. I don't think you can be truly great at this game unless you embrace that element of it. It's as much a part of the game as blocking and tackling.
Q. You often talk about the etiquette of the game, how the game should be played. How do you come to the etiquette? Is it something the players simply understand?
A. It's something that you continually teach, based on examples that are presented to you as a football team. What I mean is, the hay is never in the barn in regards to coaching and playing football the way it's supposed to be played. What you do is you cite examples along the way: this is a good example of how we want to play as a football team, or, this is not a good example of how we want to play as a football team. I think you are constantly brushing your team up in regards to that, and educating your team, and pointing out examples – positively and negatively – of how you want your team to play when you use that statement: playing football the way it's supposed to be played.
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