He has one of the most famous faces in football, despite the care he takes to keep it shadowed. It’s a fearsome face, both fatherly and somewhat fanatical, the face of a tender executioner. It shows everything and nothing, and hides everything and nothing. It is stoical, its primary expression a manifestation of will and its secondary expression an acceptance of fate. It distrusts elation as much as it distrusts despair and is particularly good at exhibiting, and then instantly recovering from, disappointment. Its primary features are those of a man going incognito—a beard, the hat pulled permanently down low over his eyes, which tell all his secrets. His eyes never stop moving until they settle, like cheap nike nfl jersey spotlights, on the object of their outrage or affection. It is not the face of a relaxed man but of one who can’t wait and can’t bear to see what comes next. Sometimes he darts his tongue, or punctuates his sentences by tightening his lips, yet his face is as unlined as a baby’s, as though the act of self-preservation required of every professional football coach—even one who has become a fixture of American Sundays—extends, in his case, all the way to the skin.
Mike Tomlin’s face is the face of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and therefore of tradition; his face is also the face of African-American coaches in the NFL, and therefore of the most provisional and hard-won progress. He is an emblematic figure whose image is minted on both sides of a cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale coin that never stops flipping, at least in part because he has never had to call heads or tails. Winning has not only been a Lombardi-esque everything during Tomlin’s 11 years as the Steelers’ head coach. It has also been enough to make questions of personal and racial identity seem at once beside the point and self-evident, which is how he likes them. He has had the luxury of being always himself and never himself; the caretaker of tradition is also the agent of change. But what happens when he loses games he should have won and people start looking for someone—a face—to blame?
Look at him now, in the dead of winter, enduring a practice on a mild, blue-sky day. He is instantly recognizable as soon as he steps onto the field, but the fans mark his arrival with a deep murmur rather than a greeting, and he acknowledges them with a gesture—a hurriedly raised hand—but not a glance. No one in the stands calls him by his first name or begs for his autograph, but his presence is still oddly electric. He is wearing a red hat instead of his customary black one,cheap nfl nike jersey and he has exchanged his standard-issue “Property of the Steelers” sweatshirt for a plain white jersey and loose-fitting black pants that billow in the stiff breeze. But the hat is still pulled low. cheap nfl jerseys china nike With his hands in his pockets, he goes from player to player and coach to coach, a famously taciturn man chatting them up as if they were guests at a party, changing directions with a little hop step that seems the vestige of an old-school dance move, until at last he settles himself against a goalpost, his right knee cocked at 45 degrees and the sole of his foot pressed against the pad.
It is a pose familiar to anyone who has seen the Steelers take pregame warm-ups. But here’s the rub: Tomlin is not in Pittsburgh. He is not coaching the Steelers. A week before the Super Bowl, he is not preparing his team for the championship game but rather leading a hodgepodge nike nfl jerseys cheap china of players at the peak of their powers into a game that underlines the depths of their disappointment: the Pro Bowl. Tomlin, in his every public utterance, spurns all consolations, but here he is, the head coach of the AFC in what is, by definition, a consolation prize.
There are nine Steelers wearing red AFC jerseys, and the size of their contingent offers, like so much else that happened in Pittsburgh over the past year, an example of the abiding success and failure of the man they call Coach T—success because china nike nfl jerseys cheap their attendance in Florida is a sign of the deep respect they have for their coach, and failure because it is still hard to conceive how a team with 10 Pro Bowlers as well as a quarterback headed to the Hall of Fame could have lost at home in its first game of the playoffs, again, to the Jaguars.