Of course, no one is as ready for some football as Mike Tomlin. He isn’t simply employed as a football coach, he is the living embodiment of every person who has scolded someone for walking while on the field.
Tomlin was smiling from ear to ear for the first day of padded practice during training camp, so of course he had a celebration ready for his team for Week 1.
Christmas came early for the Steelers before they boarded the plane to Cincinnati to take on the Bengals. Tomlin decided to present the team with gifts, and what will always go over well in a room full of people mostly in their 20s is a new pair of sneakers.
The Nike Air Force 1 is not exactly a pair of Air Jordan Concords. The all white version of the forces is a classic. For those who have means, like Fat Joe, the only way to wear them is clean, as in fresh out the box, clean enough to eat off of.
Those are the pairs that Tomlin acquired, but he had them altered before passing out the shoes. When the players opened the boxes, the Air Force 1s were all black. Nike didn’t have enough of the shoes in black so an artist was hired to paint 146 pairs of shoes in that color. The players let out a hearty chuckle when they saw the shoes because they knew the message that their coach was sending.
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For those of you who have never seen someone wear all black Air Force 1s, if you ever get into a confrontation with a person and you look down and see a pair of those on that person’s feet, stop arguing and run for your life. A person who is wearing black forces is not concerned about style. That is a person who, if disrespected, will rain blows on you like Frank Constanza in a toy store line at Christmas time.
Tomlin is grinning when the players see the shoes for a reason — he knew they would get a kick out of them. It’s a fun way to show the players what he wants from them in the season opener instead of telling them. He wants to see some fight, some nasty out of his players against the Bengals. He wants the Steelers to begin their season as bullies. Deebo, The Gooch, Nelson, Biff Tannen, that’s the spirit he wants his players and staff to have starting Week 1. When they are on the field they are going to be the team that pushes the other team around.
It’s typical Tomlin. This is the man who refers to winning football games as “getting out of the stadium alive.” He’s as intense of a football coach as there is, but he’s not some cartoon character. He doesn’t scream and throw temper tantrums, but he does mean business. The passing out of the shoes is a perfect example of his personality as a coach. He’s clever. He handles the press conferences about as well as any coach in the league by speaking in an authoritative tone and using his go to expressions. He presents himself and the team extremely well, yet still never reveals much actual information except that the Steelers are going to play hard.
The black Air Force 1s are one of his rare moments when he shows his sense of humor, but even in that moment of levity his message to his team is the same as it always is.
Hit people very, very hard on Sunday.