By Teresa Varley
Steelers Defense Photo Available Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is the first rookie in the NFL to lead his team to two playoff wins, but at this point of the season Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin doesn't look at him as a rookie any longer.
"This guy has the hardware that says otherwise," said Tomlin. "He's led a football team. He's obviously gained the respect of a very veteran-laden football team, particularly defensively.
Flacco has done more than manage the offense, not throwing an interception or fumbling in two playoff games and he has yet to be sacked.
"They ride with him, as the guys say," said Tomlin. "He's won postseason games, he's won in hostile environments, he's won on the road and he's delivered.
"I knew that about him when we were up on them the first time we played those guys. He took them down the field and forced overtime. I saw enough at that time to realize that we're going to have our hands full with this guy for a very long time. He's done nothing to disprove that. He's got his team in striking position to compete for a World Championship."
When Tomlin comes to work each day, he walks past the five Super Bowl Trophies that have been won by the organization, including the most recent one from Super Bowl XL.
He knows that adding to the collection is the ultimate goal and he doesn't mind that at all.
"I love the high expectations that come with this job," said Tomlin. "I'd rather have high ones than low ones. It's a sense of pride. The tradition is awesome. You can't put a price tag on it. It's inspiring not only to me, but I think everybody that's a part of our football team and in this organization.
"Standards are great. As parents, we try to hold our kids to high standards. Those that have come before us set the standards for us. We understand that when we come in the building. We understand that when we take the field. We hope with how we do our business honors those guys."
Tomlin took a few minutes, although he admittedly needed a whole lot longer, to talk about Tony Dungy during his press conference. Tomlin was a member of Dungy's staff in Tampa Bay and had plenty of praise for Dungy, who just retired as the Indianapolis Colts head coach.
"At this time as he walks away from football I tend to focus on his contribution to the game," said Tomlin. "A lot of times people appreciate who he is as a person, and I'm among them. But at times when we think of him as a person, we diminish somehow what he's done as a coach and what he's done for this game. He's the ultimate coach, he's the ultimate motivator. Often times he's expressionless in the midst of battle, but those who work for him understands what a great motivator and how he inspires men in preparation and in play. He's a great leader in that way, great football coach.
"He doesn't need an endorsement from me in that regard; his record speaks for itself. What he's done for the game schematically and what he's done from a coaching standpoint, giving men an opportunity and training them and giving them the tools to go out and do it and be at their best. He's a special, special person and when I say that I say that from me personally."