While Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II for the second time yesterday declined to take the opportunity to commit to the intention for the organization to complete a contract extension for Head Coach Mike Tomlin as he enters the final two years of his deal, he also stressed that these conversations typically happen later in the offseason.
If you look back at the history of Tomlin’s contract extensions over the years, they happen in the summer as training camp begins to roll around. It’s likely for the very simple reason that coaches and front office personnel have a lot of things going on at this time of year in preparing for free agency and the draft.
Rooney was in fact complimentary of Tomlin a number of times throughout the interviews that he gave during his media rounds yesterday, even perhaps in ways that many might not expect. He was asked on The Fan what he expects out of his head coach, and gave the following answer.
“I think the biggest thing that the head coach has to be able to do is command the locker room, and keep the attention of the players”, he said.” I think that’s the key to how you evaluate a head coach, and I think Mike had done that”.
I’m sure a lot of you are slapping yourselves on the forehead at this point. That ‘Tomlin has lost the locker room’ sort of became the refrain for many corners of Steeler Nation over the course of the past several months, especially lately, and during their struggles at the beginning and end of the 2018 season.
“Look, we didn’t make the playoffs this year and that’s our first goal, so we all have to deal with that and we all have to figure out how to get better”, Rooney continued. “But we were in contention down to the last plays of the season. We beat New England one of the last games of the season. We played a pretty good games against New Orleans”.
Why does he believe that Tomlin maintained control of his team through the end of the season? Because “the team was playing well and playing hard, so that tells me that we didn’t have a problem with Mike’s communication with the team. They were playing hard down to the end”.
The Steelers won two of their three final games, including a key victory over the New England Patriots, and they were narrowly defeated by the New Orleans Saints thanks to some late-game slipups on both offense and defense, holding a lead until the final minutes with a surprise fumble back on offense finishing things off.
It’s evident that Rooney doesn’t see situations like Browns as the norm in Tomlin’s managerial portfolio, but rather an exception (or an exceptionalism, as the case may be). But that doesn’t mean he isn’t going to be more cautious about his coach’s future from this point forward.