EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Speaking to St. Louis media on Wednesday afternoon, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had already showered St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald with praise when he was asked about the greatness of one of his players, receiver Antonio Brown.
Tomlin shifted back to Donald to make a point about Brown.
"He works like Aaron Donald," Tomlin said. "When I think about both guys, they’re better workers than players, and that’s saying something when you’re the type of players that both men are. I described Aaron in that way yesterday when our local guys asked about him. I said, 'He works like Antonio Brown.' I think that’s the common tie that I see when I think about those guys."
It's something of a cliche to talk about a player who is the first in the building and the last to leave, but Donald has been that for the Rams since he arrived in 2014. He's been known to beat the early arriving coaching staff to the building on occasion and is always in the meeting room when defensive coordinator Gregg Williams walks in.
That dedication and devotion to his craft is something Tomlin hasn't just admired from afar. Donald went to the University of Pittsburgh and goes back to train there in the offseason. The Panthers and Steelers share a facility, and even when the NFL isn't in season, Donald is still beating coaches to work, even leaders of other teams.
"He’s just a ridiculous worker," Tomlin said. "I was in this past winter, it was a week after the Pro Bowl and I saw him in that parking lot every morning because he was coming over to get his work like he normally does at the University of Pittsburgh. I saw him just about every morning in February when a lot of guys are on beaches and vacationing, this guy was getting out of his car at 6:30 in the morning to work out. That’s not out of character based on the things that I know about him."
Regardless of outcome, it's clear Donald has a fan in the coach who will man the opposing sideline on Sunday.
"Aaron Donald, besides being a special player, is a special man," Tomlin said. "I’ve gotten to know him over the years being a neighbor over here at Pitt. Just to watch what he’s willing to do is as or more impressive than he’s capable of doing."