Mike Tomlin’s track record in the regular season as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers speaks for itself. He has been among the best in the NFL since arriving in the city 14 years ago, and, coming off of a 12-win season, is preparing to enter his 15th year, with the team already talking about revisiting his contract and adding another year or two to it.
With an overall .650 record, which ranks 17th all-time in the history of the NFL, even his biggest detractors can hardly deny the success that Tomlin has had in the regular season over the course of his career. But when it comes to the postseason, it’s a different conversation.
The ugly reality is that Tomlin is now 8-8 in his 14-year career in the postseason, in nine playoff appearances over 14 seasons. He has done one-and-done in five of those nine playoff appearances, having played at least three games in 2008 (winning the Super Bowl), 2010 (losing the Super Bowl), and 2016 (losing the conference finals). He only other postseason in which he played more than one game was in 2015, reaching the divisional round.
“I have a lot of confidence in Coach Tomlin, and a lot of confidence that he gets us the opportunity to be in the postseason more often than not”, Steelers president Art Rooney II told Andrew Stockey on WTAE on Friday. “One of these years, we’re gonna be able to take advantage of that opportunity”.
It’s easy to say, but harder to believe. The Steelers have gone four years without a postseason victory now. They lost in the divisional round following a bye week in 2017, then missed the playoffs entirely the following two years, before being embarrassed in the wildcard round against the Browns earlier this year.
“This year’s game is an example of you—we certainly felt good going into that game against Cleveland”, Rooney insisted. “Top to bottom through the coaches and the players, we felt like we had a chance to go deep into these playoffs. Unfortunately, when you turn the ball over four times in the first half, you just don’t give yourself a chance”.
“It’s hard to pin all of that on our on our coach, frankly, and so, I’m happy to keep working with Mike and I think I think we’ll get back to the promised land eventually”, he added.
It’s never easy to win a playoff game, but ultimately, that’s what coaches are paid to do, and the truth is that Tomlin has underwhelmed in that department, relative to Pittsburgh’s standards. Compare him to John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens, who has an 11-8 postseason record. Tomlin is tied for the 25th-most playoff wins of all time, but had fallen short of his predecessors.