*Coach Mike Tomlin still is only 38 years old, still hasn’t played a down of NFL football, and still has only one year as a coordinator on his resume.

But after his Pittsburgh Steelers secured their second Super Bowl appearance in his four seasons as coach, the last thing Tomlin has to worry about is whether he’s gained the respect of his players … past or present.

“I think a lot of guys,” Pittsburgh defensive tackle Chris Hoke said, “would love to come play for coach Tomlin.”

Former Steelers cornerback Deshea Townsend concurs. And he should know. He played for both Bill Cowher and Tomlin, and was a key member of that Pittsburgh transition phase.

“He had to put his identity on the team. He had to do things he felt would make us better, and he had to do his own way,” Townsend said of Tomlin. “He was coming in for an established coach, one that guys respected. So, not only was he the new guy, he was the new guy for a guy who had been there a long time.”

Whatever he did, it worked. After all, he’s already a Super Bowl champion, and is on the cusp of joining an exclusive club of two-time winning coaches — before his 40th birthday, no less.

Maybe that’s why Tomlin appears to be as beloved by his players as any other NFL coach.

“It was a different feel to have a young guy, this coordinator from Minnesota who came up through the ranks pretty quickly coming in here,” Townsend said. “Before he had spoken to us, there was this type of unknown of how it was going to be.

“But all that disappeared when he came on. When he first got there, he was so well-received, and the way he addressed us as men, guys gained an instant respect for their new coach.”

The rest is history. In four seasons, the Steelers — who will meet the Packers in the Super Bowl on Feb. 6 — have made the playoffs three times, won three AFC North titles and have secured two berths in the Super Bowl. Their worst season under Tomlin? 9-7.

Read MORE of this AP article HERE.