'Hardcore fan' Tomlin visits Pirates at camp

Steelers head coach supports fellow Pittsburghers

'Hardcore fan' Tomlin visits Pirates at camp

BRADENTON, Fla. -- When Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin visits Spring Training each year, he does a quick scouting report in the Pirates' clubhouse. During past trips, he's identified Jared Hughes as a potential tight end and Andrew McCutchen as a possible punt returner.

On Friday, Tomlin caught a glimpse of Josh Bell -- who didn't play football in high school per the advice of his father -- and added the 6-foot-2, 240-pounder to his dream dual-sport roster.

"I think this year I might be looking at Bell. I got a good, close-up look at Bell," Tomlin said, smiling. "The shoulders on Bell, I'm sure there's something that he could do for us."

Tomlin and Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert met with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, GM Neal Huntington and Pittsburgh's players before Friday's game against the Orioles at LECOM Park.

"We always enjoy getting an opportunity to come down here and spend a day with these guys. We've got so much respect for the Pirate organization and Neal and Clint and their leadership," Tomlin said. "It's energizing for us. ... It's just great to be in the presence of a group that's really gearing up for the battle. We feel that energy.

"We're supporters, obviously from a sports business standpoint, but as Pittsburghers, we're fans. We're humbled and honored to get on the other side of the wall, if you will, and we appreciate them opening up their home to us."

Tomlin described himself as a "hardcore fan" who attends 15-20 games each summer at PNC Park. He enjoys the time spent with his two teenage sons, as well as the simple pleasure of watching -- not coaching -- a game.

"It's great to step into a stadium without that angst that's associated with competition," Tomlin said. "When I step into PNC to watch them work, I have zero angst. ... I keep my mouth shut and clap and that's about it. I work hard to stay in my lane."

Tomlin is also a big fan of Hurdle. Like many coaches throughout the sports industry, Tomlin receives and appreciates Hurdle's daily inspirational and motivational messages.

"Guys that know Clint know the type of man he is," Tomlin said. "As leaders, we have somewhat lonely jobs. I think we connect on that level. He's been very helpful to me over the years in terms of his perspective in fighting through some of the things I fight through in my business."

Hurdle also values Tomlin's advice and understanding. He reached out to the Steelers coach last season and asked about getting through the team's four-game losing streak. He also walked Tomlin through the process of moving McCutchen to right field and realigning the Pirates' outfield.

"He met a lot of different challenges. His team had to meet a lot of different challenges. We share that," Hurdle said. "There's not a whole lot of people you can call up and say, 'I know this has happened to you before. What do you got?'"

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.