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Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stays course

TAMPA — Steelers boss Mike Tomlin, 36, didn't get to be the youngest coach in the Super Bowl by playing it safe.

He set the tone in Pittsburgh's first playoff game this season against San Diego, going for it on fourth down, faking a punt and chucking it deep instead of milking the clock with a lead.

On media day, Tomlin made it clear that being second-guessed is better than second-best.

He said he plans to be aggressive in his playcalling and decisionmaking against the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

"One thing that we won't do is coach scared or play scared,'' Tomlin said Tuesday. "That didn't get us here. We're going to be the Pittsburgh Steelers and maintain our personality in that regard.

"We're going to do what we feel is necessary for us to win.''

That go-for-broke philosophy has been embraced and parroted by players, who acted and sounded like the team favored by a touchdown over the Cardinals.

"Just because it's the Super Bowl, there's no need to revert or change a whole game plan, change our identity or whatever,'' receiver Hines Ward said. "We're not going to do it. You know what you're going to get. They know what we're going to give them. It's just a matter of executing the game plan. If you go for it on fourth down, execute. Try to make it. That's the bottom line.''

In the Steelers' 35-24 win over San Diego in the AFC division playoff game, Tomlin said he wanted to take the fight to the Chargers. He did just that, but with mixed results.

He went for it on fourth and 1 at the San Diego 1-yard line and failed. His call for a fake punt lost 4 yards. Ahead by 18 points with three minutes left and the Chargers out of timeouts, he called for a deep third-down pass that Limas Sweed dropped.

Five plays later, the Chargers were in the end zone to cut the lead to 11 with 1:57 remaining. But their onside kick was covered up by Pittsburgh, effectively ending the game.

"We have a young coach and he knows how aggressive his guys are on the field week in and week out,'' receiver Santonio Holmes said. "He gives us an opportunity to make plays and he has a lot of confidence in whoever makes plays.

"All those plays that you see, like the pass that was dropped by Limas Sweed? He said if he had the chance to do it all over again, he would. That shows he has a lot of faith in us and he believes in what we're capable of doing.''

Not that the Cardinals are bothered by their underdog status. It served them well in beating three favorites in the playoffs to reach the Super Bowl.

"Pittsburgh has been here before, they have won this game and they have a lot of veteran players,'' Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I can understand why people are (predicting them to win). We have been the underdog in every one of our playoff games. It has served us well, so I don't have any problem with it.''

One thing Tomlin might want to consider is the Steelers' lack of success on fourth down this season. Their 25 percent conversion rate (3-of-12) in the regular season was the worst in the league and they added to it by going 0-for-2 in the playoffs.

But quarterback Ben Roethlisberger knows Tomlin is going to keep his foot on the gas Sunday.

"We're an aggressive type team,'' Roethlisberger said. "And I would expect that from him.''

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin stays course 01/28/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 28, 2009 5:43pm]
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