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Title-winning coaches Tomlin, Bylsma share notes
LATROBE, Pa. (AP) — Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma won the Stanley Cup less than five months into his NHL coaching career. He'd like to win another one, so he sought advice from a team that knows how to repeat as champions: the Steelers.
This is the first time the Super Bowl and Stanley Cup champions are residing simultaneously in the same city, so Bylsma took advantage by huddling with coach Mike Tomlin at the Steelers' training camp Wednesday to swap ideas and study the ways of a champion.
Bylsma and Tomlin couldn't compare rings; the Penguins won their third Stanley Cup only two months ago, and they've yet to receive their championship jewelry.
"It's great to have the opportunity to come here and watch how they're doing things, watch what they do, how they approach training camp, to chat about how they're dealing with the season after a championship and what they think their mentality is," Bylsma said. "It's something we would like to try to learn from and what they're going through."
This was much more than a social visit. Bylsma asked Tomlin and director of football operations Kevin Colbert numerous questions about how the Steelers won two Super Bowls in four years, and how they deal with the season following a championship.
"Getting your players to the work level, the habit level you need to have, building that foundation and also the mentality, the focus of the player, and keeping it fresh after a championship season and then through a long, grueling preseason," Bylsma said. "I'm looking for some ways and hopefully I'll come up with some answers."
Tomlin, Bylsma and Colbert met for a few minutes before the Steelers held their only practice of the day. It rained hard several times during the 2-hour session, but Tomlin didn't stop the workout and Bylsma stayed on the sidelines watching. The two exchanged a brief handshake once practice ended.
"We're, of course, going through similar issues, but I'm a little further down the road than he is," said Tomlin, who attended several Penguins playoff games. "He's still basking in the glow of it all. It was good to see those guys, of course, I'm big supporters of those guys and it's good to visit and compare notes."
The Steelers' camp is proving a popular stopover for coaches looking to pick up a few pointers on how to deal with winning. College basketball coaches John Calipari of Kentucky and Jamie Dixon of Pitt visited earlier this month, as did numerous college football staffs.
Bylsma was accompanied by team president David Morehouse, assistant coach Mike Yeo and several other front office staff members, and he also spent time with a few players, including linebacker James Farrior.
Farrior approached Bylsma when he entered the Steelers' offices and said, "I was out there cheering — loud."
He wasn't alone. Numerous Steelers were spotted at Penguins playoff games, including 350-pound nose tackle Casey Hampton, who was seen at one game pounding on the glass and cheering after a goal was scored. Farrior and Hampton were among the players who taped a motivational message played on the Mellon Arena scoreboard during games. Colbert has long owned Penguins season tickets.
"I'm from Texas, and there ain't too much hockey there," Hampton said. "Watching (it (hockey) on TV, I never really liked it, but going to the games is fun. You really don't understand how fast it is and exciting it is until you actually go."
Tomlin and Bylsma met previously only a couple of times before Wednesday's practice, but they share common ground as coaches — they didn't take much time to get to the top.
Tomlin spent one season as an NFL coordinator before the Steelers hired him in January 2007, and he won the franchise's sixth Super Bowl two years later.
Bylsma won a title even faster than that. He got his first head coaching job at any level a year ago this month, at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL), before moving up to the Penguins on Feb. 15 — two weeks to the day that the Steelers won the Super Bowl. The Penguins went on to win their first Stanley Cup championship in 17 years by beating Detroit, becoming the first team since 1971 to win a finals Game 7 on the road.
Bylsma hopes to repeat his visit to Steelers camp, and under the same circumstances.
"Each coach and each different sport bring something to the table that's different from what our approach is," Bylsma said. "To see how coach Tomlin and see how the Steelers do it, see how the football preseason is, you look for ways where it translates."