(Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images)
Nearly two decades ago, Mike Tomlin was the defensive backs coach for the Buccaneers on Jon Gruden's staff. A lot has changed since then for Tomlin, as he's now in his 15th season as the Steelers' head coach. However, the wisdom gained from Gruden early in his NFL coaching career is still carried with him to this day.
“Gru has no fear,” Tomlin said on Tuesday leading up to Sunday's game against Gruden's Raiders at Heinz Field. “He’s doesn’t. He looks at an issue or a problem and he sees it as an opportunity. I was with him for four years. You can’t fake that. It’s every day from him. I probably always generally had that mentality, but he helped me hone it.
“The positive energy that he consistently brings to whatever challenge that the job presents helped me and helped me grow in a big way as a coach when I worked for him as a young guy.”
Tomlin also had high praise for Raiders' defensive line coach Rob Marinelli, who he also worked with in Tampa Bay.
“Quality, quality football coach,” Tomlin said. “I was not surprised at all to watch (Maxx) Crosby and (Carl) Nassib and Yannick (Ngakoue) and (Jonathan) Hankins be the catalyst for splash for them.”
Maxx Crosby had a spectacular game against the Ravens on Monday night, as he racked up six total tackles, two sacks, two tackles for a loss and five quarterback hits. Crosby was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance. In total, the Raiders had three sacks and had two forced fumbles on Lamar Jackson that they recovered in their win over Baltimore.
“Those sack-fumbles and those game-changing plays,” Tomlin said. "There is nothing mystical about it. That’s the culture they are building over there, that’s the standard that they are held to. You can’t be surprised when those plays come to fruition.
“That could probably describe every defensive line unit that Rod has coached in the last 25 years in the NFL. I know I benefitted from it as a secondary coach when we worked together in Tampa.”
Tomlin has gone up against Gruden just once during his tenure as the Steelers' head coach. And that was in 2018, which was a 24-21 loss to Gruden's Raiders in Oakland.