ARLINGTON, Texas (BP)–Working together for the last four years, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau have formed one of the most powerful combinations in the NFL.
Together, they have led the Steelers to two Super Bowl appearances in the last three years.
Last summer LeBeau became one of the first career assistants ever to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On Sunday, Tomlin will attempt to be the youngest head coach ever to win two Super Bowl titles.
In the world’s eyes, pretty heady stuff. But as they get ready for Super Bowl XLV against the Green Bay Packers, both men revealed they work together as Christian believers looking to guide their team God’s way.
“I don’t talk about [faith] very much, but I think it’s almost a necessity in this profession because of the ups and downs in this profession, and you have to stay the course,” LeBeau said.
Growing up in northern Ohio, LeBeau credits his mother, Beulah, now 95 years old, for instilling godly values in him.
“She loves me, took me to church, prays for me. I give her a lot of credit for always watching out for me,” he said.
Tomlin said he doesn’t feel the need to talk to LeBeau often about spiritual matters while on the job, because he knows they both believe in the principle Tomlin first learned from his coaching mentor Tony Dungy: servant leadership.
“I try to lead as a servant,” Tomlin said. “I try to do the same thing every day when I go to work. I don’t think about the things I have to do, I think about how I can help these men get better.”
One of the ways LeBeau and Tomlin work together on spiritual matters with the team is supporting the work of team chaplain Kevin Jordan.
In his first year with the team in 2009, Tomlin installed Jordan as the training camp referee for a heated segment, and then publicly backed him up with the quote, “The chaplain saw what the chaplain called.”
This year, Tomlin and LeBeau participated in a fundraising dinner for Jordan at a suburban Pittsburgh home to help with his Athletes in Action ministry.
It was the second year both have appeared at the dinner in the midst of another hectic football season, but both felt it was the right thing to do in supporting somebody who has supported them.
“I want to make men successful and possess a certain mentality,” Tomlin said. “I learned that from Tony Dungy. If I’m able to provide a positive example to some man or some coach, then that is great as well.”
At age 73, LeBeau is almost twice as old as Tomlin, 38. He revealed that his players often call him papa coach.
“I don’t know who gave it to me, but I’ve told them several times, I’m honored, because they could call me grandpappa coach, because I could be a lot of these guys’ grandfathers,” LeBeau said. “They’re cutting me down in years pretty good, when they call me dad.”
But LeBeau said he is not ashamed to be known as a spiritual dad to the players and other coaches.
“Religion is the foundation for all of us,” he said.
Art Stricklin is a Dallas-based sports correspondent.