PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin never publicly mentions Bill Cowher's name unless he is asked specifically about him, though it is certainly not because of a lack of respect.
Tomlin is trying to put his stamp on the NFL as a head coach rather than attempting to imitate the very successful coach before him. That's almost exactly the same path Cowher followed after succeeding Chuck Noll in 1992.
What's curious is, with Tomlin's first regular season as the Steelers' head coach ending with Sunday's game at Baltimore, how similar his first season and Cowher's first are becoming.
A coincidence? Maybe. Is it a sign that Tomlin is developing into the coach Cowher was while taking the Steelers to the postseason 10 times in 15 years, appearing in five AFC championship games, and winning a Super Bowl? Maybe that, too.
"I live week to week," Tomlin said. "That's the world I live in."
It is a world that, considering the similarities between Cowher's rookie season in 1992 and Tomlin's in 2007, has been much like the one in which the Steelers lived 15 years ago:
Cowher inherited a team that finished with a 7-9 record the previous season under a long-successful coach and immediately got it into the playoffs with an 11-5 record. Tomlin's Steelers, coming off an 8-8 season under Cowher, will finish 11-5 if they beat the Ravens.
The 1992 Steelers got off to a 6-2 start, were 7-3 after 10 games, then faltered down the stretch with two losses in their final three games. These Steelers got off to a 6-2 start, were 7-3 after 10 games, and faltered down the stretch with two losses in three games before beating St. Louis, 41-24, on Thursday.
Both teams were 3-1 after four games, 6-2 after eight, and 9-3 after 12.
Both coaches were credited for getting the most out of the players they had, and each turned a former backup into a star. In 1992, running back Barry Foster developed into a Pro Bowl player. In 2007, linebacker James Harrison accomplished the very same thing under Tomlin.
Both coaches were 35 and dealing with players who weren't much younger.
The major difference is that Cowher was widely credited for rejuvenating a franchise that had become stale and underachieving in its final few seasons under a star coach.
These Steelers are only two seasons removed from winning the Super Bowl, and Tomlin is righting a proven team that strayed off-course for only one season. He probably won't win a lot of coach-of-the-year votes as Cowher did in 1992, and the best the Steelers can be seeded in the AFC is third.
Still, very much has gone right in Tomlin's first year after a season in which a lot went wrong, just as it did with Cowher in charge in 1992. And that may not be a coincidence at all.
"I don't put any vision in my head of what the team should look like or should be, because invariably what you are limiting is what you are potentially capable of being," Tomlin said. "I go into it with an open mind, and I look forward to watching this team grow and develop and win on a week-in, week-out basis. That is how I approach it."