No Votes, But Tomlin Respected Where Counts

Various notebook items on the final football Sunday of the season:

DALLAS – After all of the distractions he's guided the Pittsburgh Steelers through this season, coach Mike Tomlin didn't get a single vote in the recent Coach of the Year balloting that was won by New England's Bill Belichick.

Of course, Tomlin doesn't need an award to speak for his growth as a coach. He has his players.

"When he first got here," said Hines Ward, "he was very militant. I remember him making guys wear certain things. There were some veteran guys that challenged his authority and they're no longer here. At the same time, the guys he kept, we bought into his beliefs and his system.

"I remember the first year. I remember two-a-days when we wore full pads the whole time in training camp, and by the time we made it to the playoff game against Jacksonville we were a beat-up team. Then he adjusted on the run.

"He's not going to drive everybody into the ground. He just started giving the 30-year-old guys the [bye] weeks off, but at the same time getting some nice work with the young guys to let them develop. It's just great because in case one of your starters goes down, the backup has had some practice time, good practice time, so he feels comfortable when he gets the opportunity."

NOTE TO BEN

Ben Roethlisberger is another believer in Tomlin. Roethlisberger thought his coach's best motivational ploy was a note he gave Roethlisberger before Super Bowl 43.

"It was before the Tampa Super Bowl," Roethlisberger said. "He put down ‘Terry Bradshaw 4, Joe Montana 4' and he listed the Super Bowls and he said, ‘Where do you want to fit in that group?'"

Right now, Roethlisberger stands with John Elway, Bob Griese, Roger Staubach, Bart Starr and Jim Plunkett with two rings.

If Roethlisberger and the Steelers win today, he would join Tom Brady and Troy Aikman with three. Of course, Bradshaw and Montana have four rings.

A SURREAL MOMENT

Mike Wallace called his touchdown catch to beat the Packers last season "surreal" and said the catch ranks with "one in high school that was pretty cool."

In spite of that, Wallace seems to be the forgotten weapon in a game with such heralded names as Hines Ward, Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.

"He's the fastest player in pads that I've ever coached," said Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. "He's learned to slow down actually. You can't run 4.1 or 4.2 and break right or left, but 4.3 is pretty good. Most guys don't have that. He's learned to control his speed and then still stretch the field."

"The only thing that allows people to cover him are underthrown balls," said Steelers safety Ryan Clark. "I cover him at camp, line up 20 yards away, and when they call hike I start running. At least I'll be over the top. Both of these teams have extremely talented receivers, but when we are talking fast-track and who benefits more, it's number 17."

THE BIG MAC

This Super Bowl will include 18 players from the Southeast Conference. No surprise there. But the next-best supplier of talent is the Mid-American Conference with 15.

MAC players from the Packers include: Greg Jennings, James Starks, Cullen Jenkins, Tom Crabtree, Josh Gordy, T.J. Lang, Atari Bigby, Frank Zombo and Diryan Briggs.

MAC players from the Steelers include: Roethlisberger, James Harrison, Shaun Suisham, Antonio Brown, Byron Leftwich, and Charlie Batch.

From that group are four players from Central Michigan, including rookies Brown, Gordy and Zombo.

"I won a championship last year at this time with those guys and won a bowl game with them," said Brown, the Steelers' rookie receiver. "Now, we're playing in the biggest bowl on Earth."

QUOTABLE TROY

Troy Polamalu is the conscience of the Pittsburgh Steelers, so we'll let him wrap up the final pre-game notebook with some of comments from a week of press conferences.

* On advice for high school athletes:

"Play all sports. I think it's horrible what coaches make athletes do nowadays, be single-sport athletes. I think you should play all sports."

* On never losing his calm demeanor:

"I try to represent something bigger than myself, whether it's on the football field or off the football field, and to represent the same person. I wouldn't be somebody that's a ‘rah rah, look at me' guy on the field or off the field. I think if you see people like that, there's something that's not authentic in their life. They're either fake outside the football field or fake on the football field. I just try to be the same person."

* On the Steeler Way:

"We get a tremendous amount of support from our owners. We call the owner ‘Papa Rooney.' People have his cell phone [number]. He came out in support of the players and the union saying that 18 games shouldn't be within the next CBA. He's got a really unique view on how a successful franchise should be run and how the team should be run and how the atmosphere in the locker room and within the building should be. I think other owners could learn from that."

* On what goes through his mind the night before a Super Bowl:

"You want to just treat it like any other Saturday. It's still a football game against the Green Bay Packers, whether or not there are festivities of the Super Bowl or what's at stake. I think if you start to get enamored with those things you start to lose sight of what's really at hand, which is a football game."


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