I was reading Bob Smizik’s article today about the punishment handed out by Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin to his starting Nose Tackle Casey Hampton, who reported to training camp overweight. Smizik wondered if Tomlin is being too tough, or at least too public, in his punishment of Casey Hampton. These are good questions to ask and the answer will be known over the course of the season. However, it is very common for the coaching and training staff to give players, particularly those with weight control problems, a target weight that they want them to report to camp at. According to Smizik, “One report had him at 40 pounds overweight, which would have put the scale closer to 400 pounds than 350.”
Mike Tomlin is attempting to ensure that the Steelers return to past success as such he was looking for all members of the team to show up for camp in the best possible condition. When one of your key veterans shows up for camp approximately 40 pounds over the limit it is indicative of a much larger problem for the team and long-term for the player. In a situation like this it is completely appropriate for Mike Tomlin to set an example with Casey Hampton. He is using Hampton to signal to both the veterans and young players that his rules are to be followed. Bob Smizik pointed out that Cowher would let an issue like this slide, and I would quickly point out that the comparison with Cowher should be made with him in the early days and not the later years. I strongly suspect that Cowher became more lenient on certain issues, with certain players, after he set his program. And at some point, the same will likely be true of Tomlin. But, currently he is in the second year on this job with many of the players pre-dating him; it is important that Tomlin remains consistent in the enforcement of his rules.
My belief is that Mike Tomlin and Casey Hampton will get past this. Casey has been a consistent performer on this team and will likely be one this year as well. It would help Casey if he fully appreciates that when there is a change in management, the way business gets done also changes. It is not appropriate in a situation like that to say, this is the way I/we have always done it. It is a new day, with new rules.
One wonders, though, how much better Casey could be if he was in better physical condition. I believe this is the core issue from the coaching staff perspective. Tomlin, Dick LeBeau, John Mitchell and their staff most likely watched film and decided that he could have been an even better player, if he reported to camp at the target weight.