Monday, January 22, 2007

Tomlin New Steelers Head Coach

Mike Tomlin, the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, was hired by the Pittsburgh Steelers -- the first black head coach in the team's 74-year history.

He accepted the job Sunday night and the hiring was announced Monday, with the contract to be completed later in the day. He was negotiating a four-year contract expected to pay him about $2.5 million a year. The Steelers will hold a press conference at 3:30 p.m. ET Monday.

Tomlin, the team's third coach in 38 years, was hired on the same day two black coaches made the Super Bowl for the first time: Lovie Smith in Chicago and Tony Dungy in Indianapolis. Tomlin was once an assistant under Dungy at Tampa Bay.

Tomlin's hiring completed a 2½-week search in which he was initially viewed as an unlikely choice behind perceived front-runners Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, but Whisenhunt later accepted the Arizona Cardinals' job.

Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, the other finalist with Grimm and Tomlin, did not get a second interview because the Steelers would have had to wait until Feb. 5 to meet with him again. Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey, recommended by Cowher, also didn't get a second interview.

Tomlin will be the fourth consecutive Steelers coach who was a defensive assistant coach in his 30s with another team before being hired by them. Bill Austin was 37 when he was chosen in 1966, as was Chuck Noll in 1969. Cowher was 34 in 1992.

Tomlin's hiring will likely bring a shakeup in the Steelers' coaching staff less than a year after they won the Super Bowl. Grimm won't return after being passed over, and 69-year-old defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and his renowned zone blitzes probably will be gone, too.

Tomlin's defense in Minnesota was best in the NFL against the run in 2006, allowing just 61.6 yards per game, but tied with Cincinnati for last against the pass, allowing 238.6 yards per game through the air.

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