Hearing from Mike Tomlin

On the Ravens, Wally Pipp, payments from agents

Throughout the 2010 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. Before the game against the Baltimore Ravens, you said, "Regardless of what happens in the stadium, you're going to learn a lot about yourself playing against the Baltimore Ravens." What did you learn?

A. I think it reveals itself over time. We've got some young guys for whom the professional stage is not too big. It didn't necessarily show itself significantly, but there is a level of intensity and violence that's a part of that rivalry and when a young guy can swim in those waters he can swim. We had some young guys who have played some ball for us and played above the line, and they played above the line in that Baltimore game. I'm talking about special teams and so forth, and they could handle it, which is encouraging.

Q. How about Maurkice Pouncey in particular – how did he fare in the middle of the line of scrimmage against the Ravens?

A. I thought he did well, and it's similar to how he has performed at every turn this year. I'm starting to get comfortable with what we're going to get from him, and that's really the reason why he's been given this unique opportunity to play and play a significant role as a young guy. He has proven to us that he doesn't play like a young guy and he continues to do that at every opportunity. That's what is important as we continue to move forward, that we get a level of consistency from his performance over a short and long period of time. He understands that and works diligently on a daily basis to provide it.

Q. When a player gets hurt, the next guy goes into the lineup and the standard of expectation does not change. But when you have a guy who gets into the lineup and then performs so well that he takes the job full-time, how do you handle that?

A. A lot times as coaches we don't give players enough credit for what they see, or are cognizant of and recognize. In Wally Pipp-type situations, usually you're telling the room what the room already knows. I don't act like it's a big revelation when I sit down and provide those bits of information or evaluations. Generally, when a guy is out due to injury and his backup has been given an opportunity and has excelled, they know and understand it.

Q. Do you believe there is any duty on the part of the coach, though, to tell a guy personally that he lost his job?

A. Absolutely. And not only in those circumstances, but with all decisions that are relevant to my job and what goes on with this football team are best done in that manner.

Q. A recent issue of Sports Illustrated contained a story where a former agent talked about paying college athletes and named names. Do you have an opinion on this?

A. It bothers me that a lot is being written and said about the players themselves, who were 19, 20, 21 years old at the time. Their names are being mentioned, and they have to defend themselves and say whether they did or did not take money. Nobody is mentioning the people who are offering the money. If we really want to fix the ills, we should dig deeper to the source, and to me the source are those agents, or so-called agents, or representatives of so-called agents who offer kids money. In most cases, they're offering poor kids money. It's pretty judgmental as a society for us to think that a young, poor kid whose family is in need is going to walk away from money. Does that make it right? Absolutely not. Does it make it realistic? Sure. When I was 20, if I was good enough to be offered some money, I probably would've taken it even though in my heart of hearts I know it's wrong. That's part of being young and growing. What I'd like to see done is for us to sink some teeth into these adults who are offering kids money. I want their names mentioned, and I want those people to have to stand up and acknowledge or deny whether they were involved in that kind of activity. And quite frankly, we should aggressively pursue lifetime decertification for those so-called agents who offer young men money.

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Q. But doesn't something have to be done for these poor kids? If a kid comes from South Florida and is recruited to play at a Big 10 school in a state where there is real winter, does he even own a coat?

A. I've seen it. I coached football at the University of Cincinnati, and we recruited a lot of kids from Dade County in Florida. You bring the kid up, and the weather turns. He doesn't own a coat. He's never owned a coat. It's an issue. It's a moral dilemma, a real dilemma that you have to deal with time and time again. And the people who sit in offices in the corners of building and make judgment decisions on coaches and agents and kids in those circumstances don't have a legitimate understanding of what these kids go through.

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