ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Pittsburgh Steelers will win Super Bowl XLV on Sunday for so many reasons, but among the biggest is that they have Mike Tomlin, and the Green Bay Packers don't.
Tomlin is a miracle.
Oh, and he can coach.
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With eyes glowing, Steelers nose tackle Chris Hoke said of his franchise's new Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher, "He knows how to push buttons. He knows how to get us going. He has a certain message for us every week, and he pounds that message in every day."
There were those moments two seasons ago, for instance, when Tomlin kept spurring the Steelers to a world championship during just his second year on the job. It began with Ben Roethlisberger, especially after the Steelers reached the ultimate game. Since quarterback play is the key to winning Super Bowls, Tomlin knew he had to make Big Ben as potent mentally as he already was physically.
So Tomlin got an index card, and he wrote "Terry Bradshaw 4" and "Joe Montana 4" to signify the number of Super Bowl rings those quarterbacks own. And Tomlin added, "Where do you fit in that group?" before he placed the card in Roethlisberger's locker.
Final score: Arizona Cardinals 23, Steelers 27.
Roethlisberger was as courageous as Bradshaw and as clutch as Montana near the end by leading the Steelers 88 yards before firing the clinching touchdown pass in the final seconds.
We're back to Tomlin, with Roethlisberger glowing and saying, "He's a player's coach, and you know he's a good motivator, but he doesn't try to give you that 'Win one for the Gipper' type of speech. He knows how to let us motivate ourselves and be professionals."
It's everything about Tomlin that makes him significant. It's his eyes that are intimidating yet comforting. It's his voice that makes you want to grab a pair of shoulder pads and slam into something. It's his mannerisms that say he is confident in his ability but not overly cocky.
It's his ability to channel his mentor more often than not.
We're talking about Tony Dungy, the former Indianapolis Colts icon of a coach, who was the same with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where Tomlin was all eyes and ears as Dungy's secondary coach.
"I am very conscious of coach Dungy's influence in terms of how I do my job," said Tomlin, who is black, as is Dungy, who became the first black coach ever to win a Super Bowl before he retired in 2009. "He is a servant leader. He tries to lead through service, and I do the same. I learned that from him in providing the men what they need to be great."
Great. Remember that word.
Mike McCarthy isn't bad, by the way. He's efficient, and he's respected, and he's got a voice with the intensity of Lombardi, which works for any NFL coach, but definitely for one with the Packers.
It's just that, at 38, and with a chance to grab a second world championship after only four years running the Steelers, and given his ability to inspire those around him without even opening his mouth ("Oh, so much swagger. So much swagger," said Steelers offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu), Tomlin already is good heading for great.
This actually makes no sense.
Steelers veteran wide receiver Hines Ward shook his head with a four-year-old memory, then said, "The Mike Tomlin pick, it came out of left field. Nobody expected that. We thought we were going to hire within, probably Russ (Grimm, a Steelers assistant coach at the time). That's what a lot players thought. When they named Mike Tomlin, a lot of people really didn't know Mike Tomlin."
That's because all of those people were normal, and they were using common sense. I mean, who would know much about a 34-year-old guy back then who was just finishing his first year as the defensive coordinator of a Minnesota Vikings team that had several players older than himself? He was with Dungy in Tampa before that, but he mostly spent his early coaching career as a college assistant among the obscure likes of VMI, Memphis and Arkansas State before heading to Cincinnati.
Only the Rooneys could find sunshine during a coaching search when others were seeing just clouds.
The Rooneys are the Steelers' legendary owners, and in 1969, they shocked reality by picking the obscure Noll at 37. After three losing seasons that began with a 1-13 finish, he led the Steelers to a dynasty that produced four Super Bowl winners.
Noll retired after the 1991 season, and along came Cowher at 34, who ended his 15 years in Pittsburgh with eight division titles, six AFC championship game appearances, two Super Bowl trips and a world title.
Cowher retired after the 2006 season. A bunch of interviews followed, including those with Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt, another Steelers assistant coach at the time who later became head coach of the Cardinals. Then, as Art Rooney II once told me, "After the first time we talked to Mike (Tomlin), we knew we had the guy we wanted."
This is the same Art Rooney II, whose grandfather, Art, founded the franchise, and whose father, Dan, led the family business until he gave the keys to Art III after becoming the U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
Art II saw in Tomlin what his father saw in Cowher and what his grandfather saw in Noll.
Mostly, there is what Tomlin sees in himself.
"Every day when I go to work, I don't think about things I have to do," Tomlin said. "I think about the things I can do to make my men successful. So I have a servant's mentality in terms of how I approach my job, and I get that from Coach Dungy. I am not consciously trying to do anything of that nature. If I am able to provide a positive example of influence for a young man or a young coach, that's great."
That word keeps following Tomlin around.