Head coach Dan Bylsma knows a little something about winning a championship at the highest level after leading the Penguins franchise to its third Stanley Cup title. But when given a chance to pick the brain of Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin – who led his team to a Super Bowl title in February – Bylsma jumped at the opportunity.
“I’ve met (Tomlin) a couple times before,” Bylsma said. “He wrote us a kind note after we won, congratulating us. He urged us to do it again.
|From left to right: Dan Bylsma, Mike Yeo, Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin |
The two reigning championship head coaches spoke privately prior to the Steelers practice at Latrobe on Wednesday.
“I asked a few questions and had an exchange of what we’re looking forward to with what he’s going through right now, given the fact that he’s coming off of a championship season as well,” Bylsma said. “We had a good talk but he’s got work to do today.”
The Steelers hosted Bylsma, assistant coach Mike Yeo, team president David Morehouse and other Penguins staff. The Penguins entourage was treated to lunch and dinner, toured the Steelers facilities, watched game film and attended practice.
“This is my first time to Steelers camp and first time to an NFL camp,” Bylsma said. “There are so many differences between the way the camps are run. There’s a different feel.”
The day wasn’t all fun and games for the Penguins crew. Bylsma and Yeo used the opportunity as a learning experience and hoped to take something away from the day that they could use during their own title defense in the 2009-10 NHL season.
“We have a chance to watch what (the Steelers) do, watch how they do things, watch how they approach training camp. We got a chance to chat about a season after a championship and their mentality going into camp. We want to learn from that and hear what they’re going through. - Dan Bylsma
“We have a chance to watch what (the Steelers) do, watch how they do things, watch how they approach training camp,” Bylsma said. “We got a chance to chat about a season after a championship and their mentality going into camp. We want to learn from that and hear what they’re going through.”
The trick now, as Bylsma said, is to translate the same approach from football to hockey.
“That’s what I’m trying to figure out, how it translates,” he said. “Each coach in a different sport has a different approach and brings something different to the table. It’s different from our approach. I wanted to see how Coach Tomlin and the Steelers do it. You look for ways for it to translate.”
But there was one universal concept that the Steelers and Penguins share, other than reigning championship titles.
“The expectations inside our room and in our organization are high,” Bylsma said. “I’m confident that the Steelers expectations are extremely high as well for what they bring to the field and for winning championships as well.”
After enjoying lunch, the Penguins were given a tour of the weight room, training room and dorms. During that time they bumped into a few players, including Pro Bowlers Troy Polamalu and James Harrison.
Harrison even petitioned for a roster spot on the Penguins’ roster, as an enforcer.
“We had a couple of offers for an enforcer role,” Bylsma said. “(Harrison) wants to be the enforcer. If he can move around on skates I can see him doing the enforcer job, that’s for sure.”
On the practice field Bylsma met briefly with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who rushed over to shake the coach’s hand, and chatted with defensive end Brett Kiesel and linebacker James Farrior.
|Dan Bylsma with Pro Bowl linebacker James Farrior |
“This is one of the premiere organizations in pro sports,” Bylsma said. “To have these guys tipping their hats to us is a shake your head moment. It makes it a special fraternity to be a part of.”
Bylsma, Yeo and Morehouse, accompanied by Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert, took in the practice from the sidelines. The Penguins coaches weren’t even deterred by a brief rainfall.
“It was an unbelievable experience,” he said. “You are a part of it when you get (to Pittsburgh). We’re fans and we’re watching them play as well. It’s a part of what happens in the city of Pittsburgh with the sports teams, sports fans and quality of teams that we have here. It’s unbelievable for the Steelers, the Penguins and the city to have the City of Champions back, winning two championships in one year.”
Over each team’s championship run, the two organizations have formed a strong bond. And Bylsma hopes to keep the connection going.
“Seeing their players involved with our team and our players involved with their championship run as well, it’s part of being a Pittsburgher,” Bylsma said. “Our guys and fans take a ton of pride when they come to our building. They were in the seats at Game 7, waving their Terrible Towels in Detroit. They were cheering us on. I think it’s tremendous to have that kind of sports camaraderie here in Pittsburgh.”
|Dan Bylsma with Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu |