12 years on, there are not many head coach-quarterback duos that have lasted longer or been more successful than have the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger. To that end, they earlier this season surpassed the franchise’ own Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll for the third-most regular season victories between a pairing in NFL history.
The team’s second win of the season back in Week Five over the Atlanta Falcons gave the Tomlin-Roethlisberger duo their 108th all-time win together in the regular season, just the third head coach-quarterback combination to do so in NFL history. They are now up to 114 and could become the second-winningest pair in 2019.
What is the key to such a relationship becoming so long-lasting? Tomlin’s answer to that was incredibly simple when asked yesterday during his pre-game press conference. “Win games”, he said. “You’re not together for over a decade if you don’t”.
While Roethlisberger is in his 15th season, 2018 is his 12th with Tomlin at the helm, which is his first post as head coach at any level of football, and he probably intends that it be the only place he ever serves in that capacity until he retires.
“That’s just how it goes”, he added. “The coach and the quarterback get run out of town” if they don’t win ball games, and Tomlin just secured his 12th consecutive non-losing season to begin a career, something that only a couple of other head coaches have ever accomplished in NFL history as well.
There have been some lean years, to be sure. The Steelers had a period of adjustment in 2012 and 2013 in which they posted 8-8 records. While they started 2012 with a 6-3 record, a Roethlisberger injury helped coincide with a 2-5 finish, and then they went 2-6 in the first half of 2013, going 4-11 over that span, but 12-5 on the bookmark ends of those years.
The team also finished 9-7 in 2009, the year after Tomlin won his Super Bowl in 2008. Once again, they were out to a 6-2 start before hitting a sudden five-game losing streak that coincided with major defensive injuries. They rebounded to win their final three games but just missed the postseason.
To date, those are the only three teams Tomlin has coached in Pittsburgh that has failed to reach the playoffs. His 2018 team is in jeopardy of being the next depending on what happens over the course of the next two weeks, but getting victory number 115 over the New Orleans Saints would go a long way toward ensuring they are playing January football once again.