The Mike Tomlin experiment has now reached it’s 11th season and it is becoming clearly safe to say that this can no longer be labeled as an experiment.
After every loss in Steelers country, social media bridges are burned. The equivalent of what a World War III would look like breaks out among the Yinzers on the different social media outlets and all usually have one common suggestion: #FireTomlin.
Go on any social media platform and type in that hashtag and check out the results that comeback. It’s quite astonishing how out of touch with reality some people really are when it comes to the Steelers and their everlasting success since Tomlin took the reigns as the head coach of the team when Bill Cowher decided to resign/retire.
I’ll begin forming my opinion by throwing a stat your way that was brought to my attention by Steelers public relations guy, Burt Lauton: Mike Tomlin is 111-59 since taking over as the head coach of the Steelers.
That equates to a .653 winning percentage. It is also the best start in the history of the team.
Tomlin has yet to endure a losing season at the helm of this team. In 10 previous tries, Tomlin’s team has won the division five times. His team controls their destiny in their 11th season of, not only winning the division, but currently the AFC as well.
In a division featuring rivals who usually keep their heads above water all the way through the final weeks of the season, Tomlin has won in half of his attempts. He’s almost assuredly going to get his sixth AFC North title this season.
That is not an easy thing to do with the constant landscape change of the NFL.
He has been the AFC Champion twice in those first ten years and arguably has a shot at a third time this coming playoff season. He won Super Bowl 43 as the youngest head coach to ever do so.
Winning doesn’t come easy in the NFL. It makes it ten times harder when you’re constantly falling victim to the best coach/quarterback tandem to grace the field.
Yet, despite Bill Belichick and Tom Brady having won five Super Bowls together, the Steelers have managed to get by through them twice in Tomlin’s era and make Super Bowl’s in 2008 and 2010. They were defeated by them in last season’s AFC Championship game. You can say Tomlin was out-coached and that would be a completely fair assessment. It isn’t easy going to Foxborough and expecting to win a game in October, let alone January.
Outside of New England, it’s hard to name any coach in the AFC, or in the entire NFL for that matter, that deserves more praise than Tomlin for pushing through despite the constant fan barrage.
In fact, let’s go through some other long tenured coaches and why there are none better than Tomlin.
Andy Reid has had lots of regular season success in both Philadelphia and Kansas City and has a bunch of coming up short to show for it. Marvin Lewis somehow still has a job for a perennial .500 team with no playoff wins under his belt. Mike McCarthy has the most talented quarterback in the game right now and has one Super Bowl to show for it. Pete Carroll is a good head coach but he threw from the goal line in the most crucial game of his career to this point when he had Marshawn Lynch in the backfield.
I’ll be one to admit the hiring was a bit puzzling at first. A young guy without much experience inheriting a future Hall of Fame quarterback and an old defense, keeping in mind he had been a defensive coordinator prior to taking the head coaching job but the Steelers knew exactly what they were doing.
Cowher had been an older coach who clearly wanted something other than coaching. The Steelers wanted a change of culture.
Now, they boast a top three wide receiver and running back, a future Hall of Fame quarterback and a defense that is young and already scary good.
That doesn’t happen by accident.
You can have talent on your roster but if you utilize it incorrectly, that falls on the coach. No one ever wants to give the coach any credit when things go right.
Of course, I must address the road game failures that Tomlin has faced in his career as obviously, that will come as a main rebuttal to everything I’ve thus far stated.
Listen, I will trade a road loss to the Bears in early September for a shot at a Super Bowl in February. It’s as simple as that. Despite all those “gimme games” the Steelers play on the road against a lesser opponent, Tomlin has managed to have seven 10-win seasons and is two wins away from adding an eighth 10-win season in 11 years.
He’s been 8-8 twice and 9-7 once. Those three seasons are the only seasons in which the Steelers have missed the playoffs under Tomlin and one of those playoff misses came due to a Ryan Succop missed field goal that I’m sure you fans remember well.
As Colin Cowherd puts it, there are a lot of coaches in the league who are more of a two than a one. New York Giants head coach, Ben McAdoo, is a perfect example. They are a pretty good coordinator but don’t have the necessary tools a head coach needs to succeed so they don’t exactly work out.
I’d say Tomlin made the transition very well.
The NFL is full of good coaches. Thirty-two guys smarter than you and I.
But if you think for a second Mike Tomlin isn’t deserving of more respect, even if you disagree with the notion that he is the second best in the league, then you may want to reevaluate your stance.