Tradition, consistency, stability. These are some of the values that have come to define the Pittsburgh Steelers as an organization during the Super Bowl era. No measurement quantifies that better, short of the steady presence of the Rooney family, than in the line of succession at head coach from Chuck Noll in 1969 to Bill Cowher in 1992 and then to Mike Tomlin in 2007.
Each of them, at least after this year, will have coached the team at least 15 seasons, and have taken them to the Super Bowl at least twice, while adding at least one trophy to the display case, with their combined efforts contributing to their being the most successful franchise in the Super Bowl era short of the New England Patriots.
This fact is not lost on the two who remain with us, and that’s something that Cowher recently spoke about during an interview with CBS Boston while promoting his new book, Heart of Steel. He talked a good deal about his successor and what their line has in common.
“Mike’s a leader of men. You watch his guys, they play hard for him”, Cowher told DJ Sixsmith. “The consistency with which he has won, he continues to win. He deals with whatever you throw at him. Two years ago he didn’t even have a quarterback for the whole year, yet it may be one of the best coaching jobs I think he’s done. I just think he’s been very consistent”.
“He’s a family guy, just like the Rooneys”, he added. “They’ve had, my gosh, a pretty good run of coaches now, three coaches for over 50 years. You have the same core values in all three coaches. These are guys that, they stand for all the right things. The Rooney family, whether it’s the Chief, whether it’s Dan, now Art, what they stand for speaks for itself. And again, being a part of that, being in Pittsburgh, it’s the best job in football. I’ve said it before, and I will never deviate from that statement”.
Earlier this offseason, the Steelers agreed to a new contract extension with Tomlin that runs through the 2024 season, a move many categorized as an effort to bridge one era to the next, with Ben Roethlisberger expected to be in his final season, barring an improbably spectacular year.
In terms of the regular season, Tomlin has Noll and Cowher beat by a fair margin. Tomlin has a career .650 winning percentage, while Cowher is at .623, and Noll at .566 (he never finished better than 9-7 in his final eight seasons, and only won 12 games in his first three years).
But it’s Tomlin who lags behind where it counts most, admittedly: The postseason. He has just an 8-8 postseason record following last year’s defeat. Cowher ranks tied for eighth all-time in wins with 12, with a 12-9 record overall. Noll’s 16 wins (16-8 overall) are sixth-most. The Steelers’ current head coach clearly has ground to catch up in the tournament that ultimately counts, and few are optimistic about the prospects for 2021.