- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2007

12:33 p.m.

PITTSBURGH - 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 today, 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.

Tomlin, the team’s third coach in 38 years, was hired on the same day that 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 also may have benefited from the NFL’s so-called Rooney Rule. Steelers owner Dan Rooney successfully lobbied in 2002 for a rule that requires all NFL teams to interview minority candidates for coaching jobs.

After a successful first season as Minnesota’s defensive coordinator, Tomlin was one of about a dozen on a list of qualified minority candidates given to Rooney at a mid-December meeting in New York. Rooney is the chairman of the NFL’s committee on workplace diversity.

The intent of the Rooney Rule was to give coaches such as Tomlin a forum for displaying their credentials. Tomlin was chosen largely because of the motivation, enthusiasm and organizational skills he showed in two strong interviews with Rooney, said team President Art Rooney II and Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert.

“It’s humbling,” Tomlin said last week of being in the running for one of the highest-profile jobs in pro sports. “These are great football people. I’ve got a great deal of respect for what they do and what they’ve done. It’s just a very humbling experience to be involved in, but, at the same time, professional football is what I do, and I’m a competitor like everyone else.”

Tomlin’s hiring completed a 2 1/2-week search in which he initially was viewed as an unlikely choice behind perceived front-runners Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm, but Whisenhunt later accepted the job as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

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