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Steelers' Tomlin focusing on another title, not his race

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin officially opened the frenzy that is Super Bowl XLV with a 20-minute news conference at the Omni Hotel on Monday afternoon.

Not once did the subject of the Rooney Rule or his race come up.

Nor was he questioned about filling the shoes of popular former Steelers coach Bill Cowher.

It didn't matter much to him.

Tomlin, 38, has always been confident in who he was and comfortable in his own skin.

But as Tomlin sits on the doorstep of history, what's clear more than ever is the conversation surrounding him has been advanced.

A victory against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday would make him the first African-American coach to win two Super Bowl titles, the quickest a coach has won two titles and the youngest to win two titles.

Any future talk about Tomlin would have to include him being ranked as one of the best coaches in NFL history.

"It's probably about two Super Bowls short of my vision," said Tomlin, who won Super Bowl XLIII over the Arizona Cardinals two years ago in just his second year.

"But I'm not into the reflection mode. I'm just trying to do it. We are trying to maximize the opportunity we have. It's not going to paralyze us. We are not going to dwell on it or overanalyze it. We are simply going to prepare and play."

Just the mere mention of Tomlin's name causes John Wooten to beam with pride.

As the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the organization that lobbied the NFL to institute the Rooney Rule, requiring each team to interview at least one minority before making a coaching hire, Wooten said Tomlin is the epitome of everything that is right with the system.

But more than that, Wooten is pleased because no one talks about Tomlin's race anymore. They just talk about how good a coach he is.

"That's why I always give credit to [Steelers owner and rule namesake] Dan Rooney," Wooten said. "He stayed true to his word and his vision. I'm thrilled. Mike has done an outstanding job. This is his team."

No one questions that this is Tomlin's team.

There is certainly no doubt the Steelers are back in the Super Bowl because of Tomlin.

He didn't win coach of the year. But no coach did a better job managing a team in 2010.

Consider that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was out for the first four games of the season for violating the NFL personal conduct policy. They survived the loss of both offensive tackles for the season and Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu for three games.

Said defensive end Brett Keisel: "He has done a great job keeping the team focused on one task at hand, next game. We never looked forward. We always focused on the next game. He has done a great job keeping the team levelheaded and driven. He is a huge reason why we are here."

Tomlin is also why the Steelers, who already have own more Super Bowls than any team in NFL history, will likely be back.

Any questions?

Clarence E. Hill Jr.

817-390-7760

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