We made a pretty big deal last season heading into the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs about the fact that Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid had an exceptional record over the course of his coaching career in his first games following a bye week. Well, the Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of their bye week, and we all love to worry, so let’s look at Mike Tomlin’s record.
Wouldn’t you know, it, his first crack at playing a game after the bye, he lost, 31-28, to the Broncos in 2007. The Steelers tied the game with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, but Matt Elam won it on a field goal as time expired. Ben Roethlisberger threw four touchdown passes to Jay Cutler’s three; the Broncos also recovered a fumble for a touchdown off a sack.
The good news is that they blew out the Bengals the following year coming out of the bye week during their Super Bowl season of 2008. It was so bad Byron Leftwich and Gary Russell replaced Roethlisberger and Mewelde Moore (who had three touchdowns) for the final drive—which also resulted in a touchdown to top off a 38-10 beating.
Tomlin continued his winning—dominating—ways in 2009, avenging the Broncos loss from two years ago with a 28-10 win, though in this one they were down 10-7 early in the third. The teams traded defensive scores before Roethlisberger tossed three in the final 25 minutes.
They got the Browns out of the bye in 2010 and fittingly dominated again, winning 28-10. This was Colt McCoy’s first game, and it didn’t go well, though he actually won his next two—before losing his next five, going 2-6 as the team’s starter that year.
2011, once again, was a win, though closer, as they only edged out the Chiefs 13-9. Outside of a Roethlisberger touchdown to Weslye Saunders (remember him?), the two teams traded field goals. This was Shaun Suisham’s first full season with the team.
And they actually beat the Eagles in 2012, coming out of an early bye, though of course that game was in Pittsburgh. The Steelers lost two of their first three games, then had their bye, only to win five of their next six until Roethlisberger’s injury against the Chiefs later that season derailed their campaign.
The bye week served them well a year later as well. They lost their first four games, but were able to regroup following the bye, beating the Jets in another field-goal-happy affair at 19-6.
Yet ironically, in some of their most successful seasons the past three years, they have lost their first game out of the bye in each. They first were handled in New Orleans by the Saints in a game that wasn’t as close as the 35-32 final score indicates.
In 2015, they had a high-scoring affair against the Legion of Boom in Seattle, losing and squandering a career game for Markus Wheaton by a score of 39-30, the separation coming on a late touchdown by the Seahawks.
Finally, last season, amidst a four-game losing streak, they came out of their bye and laid an egg in Baltimore, with Reothlisberger just returning from injury and playing quite poorly. Yet it was a blocked punt returned for a touchdown that provided the margin of victory in the 21-14 game.
Tomlin is overall 6-4 now coming off the bye, registering an awful losing streak, all in games that came on the road. Tomorrow they play in Indianapolis. But I would expect this trend to be bucked. Just some pre-game reminiscing here.