Don’t look now, but people are actually starting to respect Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Barring a random mid-season blip that served as the catalyzing moment that saw him make the bold decision to make a change at quarterback, he has pulled his team from the brink over the past month and a half to become one of the hottest teams in the NFL.
That’s pretty impressive considering the fact that they are only two games over .500 with three quarters of the season gone. They may be 7-5, which is far from great, but to judge them for who they currently are, the better barometer is their 6-1 record over their past seven contests. And people are noticing.
Take Tedy Bruschi, for example. He may be a former member of the New England Patriots, but he always had a strong football IQ and has been one of the rare players to make a seamless transition to analyst. “The better coach was the reason the Steelers beat the Browns”, he Tweeted yesterday. “Big win by Tomlin and the Steelers”.
The better head coach was the reason the Steelers beat the Browns. Big win by Tomlin and the Steelers.
— Tedy Bruschi (@TedyBruschi) December 2, 2019
Jason Whitlock, who has certainly been highly critical of Tomlin in the past, had this to say: “Mike Tomlin is my coach of the year right now. This makes no sense. Pittsburgh should be terrible”. And what better argument is there for the quality of the coach than to say that they should be terrible, yet are not?
Mike Tomlin is my coach of the year right now. This makes no sense. Pittsburgh should be terrible.
— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) December 1, 2019
The Steelers lost their franchise quarterback by halftime of their second game. This was already after losing arguably the greatest skill position player in franchise history in Antonio Brown during the offseason, and seeing Le’Veon Bell officially walk away to boot.
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s transition into the number one role has been far from seamless, but working with three different quarterbacks is obviously a factor in that. Donte Moncrief was brought in to be a starter alongside him, but he was basically never a factor.
2018 Pro Bowl running back James Conner has now missed over a third of the season due to injuries, and both of their other running backs who were on the roster to start the season have missed significant time due to injury as well.
And they lost one of their best defensive players in Stephon Tuitt early in the sixth game of the year. Just as he was looking to be set for his best season to date. They lost starting free safety Sean Davis two games into the year and had to make a drastic move to not only bring in second-year Minkah Fitzpatrick, but also to get him up to speed almost overnight and ready to be a full-time starter.
That worked out well.
Ryan Clark, who played under Tomlin: “I know names like Shanahan, Harbough, Belichick, Payton will lead the charge for Coach of the Year, but Mike Tomlin deserves consideration”, he wrote. “What this team has done with less is amazing. All of the fans that asked for his job better be thanking God they never got their wish!”.
I know names like Shanahan, Harbough, Belichick, Payton will lead the charge for Coach of the Year, but Mike Tomlin deserves consideration. What this team has done with less is amazing. All of the fans that asked for his job better be thanking God they never got their wish!
— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) December 1, 2019
Part of Tomlin’s plan for the defense this season was to drastically reduce Vince Williams’ role within it through the acquisitions of Devin Bush and Mark Barron. “Mike T is a great, and I do mean great coach”, he wrote. “Doesn’t get the credit he deserves”.
Mike T is a great, and I do mean great coach. Doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
— Vince Williams (@VinnyVidiVici98) December 1, 2019
The knock against Tomlin early in his tenure was that his success was achieved with talent acquired through the previous regime—even though he still did the coaching. Later, it became, despite the fact that he had been one of the winningest coaches during any given span, he wasn’t winning enough with the talent he had available to him—the talent he had brought in and trained.
If the Steelers proceed to make the postseason and make any kind of run therein, I would be hard-pressed to conduct a viable argument against Tomlin being among the favorites to earn the Coach of the Year title in 2019.