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Tomlin Having His Best Season Of Coaching Steelers

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Mike Tomlin has kept the Steelers above water this season. Photo from http://www.cbssports.com

Mike Tomlin was the third head coach to be hired by the Rooneys since 1969, and he was also the third hire who came to Pittsburgh without a big name or any fanfare. Like the two legends before him, Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher, Tomlin started as the youngest head coach in the league, but he seemed to have wisdom beyond his years. Mike Tomlin, however, wasn’t a very popular choice when he was announced as the guy who was replacing Bill Cowher. Mike who?

When Tomlin first took over in 2007, he was criticized for working the team too hard in camp. Tomlin’s physical camp was criticized, because it wore the players out by the end of the season, and led to an early postseason exit. Bill Cowher’s first few camps were pretty physical as well.

When Mike Tomlin led the Steelers to the franchise’s sixth Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLIII, he wasn’t given credit because he ‘won it with Bill Cowher’s players’. Well, Bill Cowher only won one Super Bowl with his own players.  The same players that went 8-8 in Cowher’s final season after he won the Super Bowl. They may have been Cowher’s players, but they would not have won that sixth trophy if they hadn’t bought into what Mike Tomlin was selling.

After the Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl, the front office went all in for one more run, to get a seventh Lombardi. They did this by signing quite a few of their older defensive stars to long term deals for big money. It almost paid off, as the Steelers returned to play in Super Bowl XLV, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers. The Steelers are still feeling the financial ramifications of those deals today, as they have had to rebuild the defense while barely remaining cap compliant. They have had to let younger talent leave because it was too expensive to cut the older, declining veterans with those big contracts. Through it all, Mike Tomlin has kept the Steelers relevant and competitive. For someone who hasn’t had a losing season in his nine years with the Steelers, it’s absolutely amazing how often people call for Mike Tomlin to be fired. It’s even more baffling what he gets criticized for.

These criticisms, and calls for Mike Tomlin to be fired, are why there are only 32 NFL General Managers and Head Coaches in the world. Unlike fans, these individuals usually remove their emotions from the decision making process and base their decisions on logic and common sense. In many cases, when you’re tight up against the salary cap, decisions are based on financial factors as well. According to many fans, Tomlin needs to be fired for every missed tackle or blown coverage. He is blamed, it seems, for any general lack of execution on any play that’s called, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Considering all the player injuries he’s had to coach around this season, and the lack of finances to address the needs of the secondary due to cap constraints, Mike Tomlin has done a heck of a job keeping the team focused and in contention. With Kelvin Beachum, Maurkice Pouncey and LeVeon Bell lost to IR, and through the loss Ben Roethlisberger, Will Allen and Ryan Shazier to multiple games, the players have succeeded because they have bought into Tomlin’s next man up philosophy. At 7-5, the Steelers still control their own postseason destiny. How many other teams could have survived what the Steelers have gone through this season and remained in contention?

For those who are determined to see Tomlin removed, who is out there that’s available, wants to coach, and would be an improvement? Of the coaches that are going to be fired at the end of this season, do you honestly think any one of them would be better suited than Tomlin to lead the Steelers?  The worst thing about what the NFL has become is that it’s evolved into a ‘what have you done for me lately’ league. It’s all about instant gratification. Fans are forsaking the patience necessary to build a long term sustainable winner because they want one now. Not even through nine complete seasons yet as a head coach, Mike Tomlin has led the Steelers into two Super Bowl appearances, winning one of them.  Here’s the list of teams since Tomlin’s debut season in 2007 that have appeared in at least two Super Bowls:

  • Seattle Seahawks (2)
  • New York Giants (2)
  • New England Patriots (3)

That’s it.  Only 7 other franchises have appeared in the Super Bowl once during the same timeframe of 2007-2014.  Steelers fans are very demanding of this franchise, for good reason as it is arguably the most successful NFL franchise, but there is an alarming lack of big picture awareness by the fanbase.

Tomlin has a career record of 89-51, good for 46th place all-time.  His career winning percentage of .636 is the highest in franchise history and 21st-highest of all time, 16th all-time for all coaches with at least 50 wins.  As a result of his next man up philosophy, Mike Tomlin just might be pulling off the best coaching job of his career.

About Brian Harker (31 Articles)
Brian is a Steelers contributor to the Point of Pittsburgh. Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, he currently lives in Wheatfield, Indiana where he is a steelworker at ArcelorMittal USA. Brian is a blogger/Co-owner of Pittsburgh Sports Forum and https://reignreport.wordpress.com/

4 Comments on Tomlin Having His Best Season Of Coaching Steelers

  1. Respectfully disagree on some points. Tomlin may not deserve to be blamed for lack of execution on the players part, but he damn sure leaves himself open to blame by putting some of those players on the field. Boykin not playing, in what only can be described by stubborness on the head coach’s part, mixed with his ridiculous in game management, could end up making this his worst year.

    All that being said, I’m not on tbe fire tomlin bandwagon. It will come down to whether they make the playoffs or not. If they don’t, Tomlin should be on the hot seat going into next year. If they do, the moronic decisions he’s made this year will be forgotten.

  2. Boykin is not the only example either, just the most obvious.

  3. I wondered myself why Boykin didn’t play earlier. According to Keith Butler and Carnell Lake, Boykin didn’t quite have a grasp on the scheme. Tomlin stated that pretty much that it wasn’t Boykin, it was that with the play of the others at the position up to that time there was no need to make a change. Maybe that was Tomlin not trying to throw anyone under the bus, I don’t know, but at least Boykin is now a part of this “new rotation” to keep everyone fresh.

    As far as game management goes, is it him or Haley who manages the offense? I know that if Tomlin says go for it on 4th down, they go for it. Sometimes it is Ben who talks them into going for it, based on what he sees. I know that Tomlin tends to call for the fake field goals and punts, and he has said that alot of times, it’s based on a gut instinct. Sometimes the timing of these calls leaves me scratching my head. When Scobey missed that field goal towards the end of regulation, against Baltimore, I thought they would have been better off going for it, instead of giving them an extra 7 yards off the miss.

    But overall, imo,Tomlin has done a solid job this year of doing the most with what he has had available to him, due to all the injuries. Never has the team showed any signs of panic, in any situation, and that truly is huge. I’ve had my issues with Tomlin, just as I have had with Cowher and Noll, but the reality of the situation is that it all comes down to talent. It used to be, in the 90’s,the Steelers had Super Bowl talent on defense, but were lacking it on offense. For the moment, the script has flipped. The defense has alot building blocks, but they are stuck having to play 2nd and 3rd string level talent as #1’s. Maybe Golson is that solution, but they need that guy.

  4. Jamie Barnhart // December 12, 2015 at 9:45 AM //

    Brian,
    I liked the signing of Tomlin. I had just watched him take over the Vikings awful defense and in one year, without adding star players, turned them from #21 in total defense to #8. BTW, when the Steelers hired him away, the Vikings defense immediately fell back down to #20.
    As far as his recent playoff futility, I agree with you that our fan base is spoiled and unreasonable. Only 11 different teams have won a playoff game since Tomlin’s last win. That means 20 teams (most) besides the Steelers haven’t won one, either! Now, I want us to win at least as much as the next guy, but I am reasonable enough to understand that there are NFL constructs in place to prevent consistent winning, and that periods of limited success are to be expected. Like you said, Tomlin’s not perfect, but he’s doing a fine job, and we should be happy to have him!

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