UNITY TWP., Pa. — Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will not take part in the team’s Friday Night Lights practice at Latrobe Memorial Stadium, according to Steelers.com reporter Dale Lolley.
Tomlin will instead be at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket Dinner in Canton, Ohio, as his former protege Ronde Barber is set to be enshrined into football immortally.
Barber was a already a four-year NFL veteran for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Mike Tomlin joined the staff as defensive backs coach in 2001, but that season was the first of his five All-Pro and four Pro Bowl selections. Barber and Tomlin were both part of the Bucs Super Bowl XXXVII-winning team after the 2002 and remained united until Tomlin left to take the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator job in 2006.
“His influence on me is without words,” Barber said. “He transformed me into the player that is now standing in Canton and get ready to get a golden jacket. There’s a lot of ways I could go about it but really he empowered me and went about methodically making me that guy. I love him to death. We’re best friends still to this day. I can’t wait for him to get here. He’s coming over here from Pittsburgh. He’s one of the guys I’m looking forward to the most sharing this weekend with.”
The Hall of Fame enshrinement week features last night’s Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, which featured the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets. Tonight’s dinner, held at the the Canton Convention Center, will be followed by a parade through the town on Saturday morning and the enshrinement ceremony itself beginning at noon on Saturday.
With Tomlin absent, the team’s coordinators will likely run practice, with special teams coordinator Danny Smith the most senior of those three. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and offensive coordinator Matt Canada will likely perform their usual roles.
Tomlin’s during-practice duties as head coach are generally flexible, and he spends his time watching, evaluating and motivating, but is not usually coach as part of the practices, other than serving as referee for competitive team periods like the seven shots goal line drill.