With the Pittsburgh Steelers win Thursday night, there’s at least one guarantee that can be made about their season. It’ll be another non-losing season. Though that’s clearly not just the goal for a team with Super Bowl dreams, it’s a remarkable streak few have done to begin a coaching career. In Mike Tomlin’s 11 seasons, the Steelers have never finished below .500.
And as PR man Burt Lauten pointed out, the best start by any coach in Steelers’ history.
Granted, Tomlin was ushered into a strong situation, rare for a new coach. He had a franchise QB, a great defense (that waned but is now close to being back), and arguably the best group of assistant coaches in the league. Still, winning in the NFL is hard, no matter how things look on paper. Tomlin has done well to weather every storm along the way and his ability to overcome those obstacles while keeping the locker room – he’s never lost that group, ever – is easily his best trait. He’s a leader of men, the most critical trait for any head coach.
Even in the darkest of years, Pittsburgh has reached the .500 mark. That dreadful start to 2013, capped off by an U-G-L-Y London loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Steelers went 8-4 the rest of the way and 6-2 the back half of the season to at least make their record look semi-respectable. By the following year, they bounced back to 11-5 and an AFC North crown.
Speaking of those, the Steelers are almost assured of another AFC North title this year. It’ll be Tomlin’s 6th in his tenure. And with two losses and not the most daunting schedule remaining, there’s still a chance they finish with their best record with him at the helm, a 13-3 finish needed to accomplish that.
That’s not to deflect from the flaws in Tomlin’s coaching style or the ugly losses and bad seasons. The Steelers exist to play for something more than just .500. But a Super Bowl run starts with a winning regular season and there’s been a lot of that under Tomlin. That much can’t be denied.