(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Mike Tomlin was on the Flying Coach podcast recently with Pete Schrager of the NFL Network and Rams head coach Sean McVay. Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris was also a part of the podcast, who has connections with Tomlin back to when they both coached together in Tampa Bay. So, there were a lot of candid conversations between the three coaches and Schrager.
One of the most compelling discussions between the coaches had to do with two-time first-team All-Pro Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who McVay called “one of, if not the premier safety in the game."
“I spend a lot of time with Minkah,” Tomlin said. “And guys like him, with his talent level and perspective on the game, require the time. I’ve learned over the years that I probably ask more questions of him because I want to know what he sees and why. So that we can reproduce it on a more consistent basis.”
Tomlin was a defensive backs coach when he was with the Buccaneers and coached top-tier talents like Ronde Barber and Hall of Famer John Lynch. Tomlin says his experience in Tampa Bay has carried over into coaching Fitzpatrick.
“When you’re coaching players like that, they bring the best out in us,” Tomlin said. “I learned the skills to coach Minkah down there in Tampa coaching John Lynch, gold jacket John Lynch, and Ronde Barber. Right? When you’re 28, man, coaching 29-year-old John Lynch, you know, and Ronde, shoot I played college ball against Ronde. The level of preparedness that you have to be ready for. It brought the best out of us, and it probably accelerated my growth and development. And it really made me view the game from a different perspective.
"Ronde was so sharp that I started coaching Ronde like a sam linebacker even though he was playing nickel. He keyed the box and played the run and fit runs like a sam linebacker, and really prior to that point I didn't know any secondary coaches coaching nickels in that way, to be honest with you. Without a doubt, Ronde is the first nickel I saw in the National Football League chase a puller in a counter scheme and go make the tackle on the other side of the ball, and not stumble into it. I'm talking about he keyed it and played it. And I tell that story because it's really the same approach that I take in terms of dealing with Minkah. Minkah has that level of football intellect, so there's a lot more meat on that bone than under normal circumstances."
Tomlin also gave a glimpse into how the Steelers will utilize Fitzpatrick this year and how his football intellect is superior to other players.
“We’re in the process right now, this summer, of talking about dealing with his alignment depth based on the nature of the offense,” Tomlin said. “RPOs versus play-action, and formational structure and things of that nature. Conversations, quite honestly, that you could not have with most guys. He’s able to digest things and make it turn up on the field that other guys can’t.”