Mike Tomlin’s legacy as a good coach had been secured long ago. Boasting a .650 career winning percentage as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers as he moves onto his 15th season, however, he understands that the priority is to win in the ‘second season’—the playoffs.
That’s something he and the Steelers have not done since 2016. In fact, they have only won a total of three postseason games since 2010. He won five postseason games and made two appearances in the Super Bowl over the course of his first four years on the job, in stark contrast.
While his postseason success has massively waned over the course of the past decade, however, that is not entirely due to his own coaching failures, and he remains well-regarded for obvious reasons. The Steelers even recently extended his contract through the 2024 season.
NBC Sports earlier this month put together a ranking of each head coach in the NFL right now, and Patrick Daugherty has the Steelers’ head coach seventh in the league, trailing Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, Sean Payton, John Harbaugh, Sean McVay, and Sean McDermott—which, honestly, is a pretty good list. He writes:
“But Ben Roethlisberger” has lost some of its luster as an anti-Mike Tomlin argument. Tomlin’s quarterback-less 8-8 2019 campaign was one of the most impressive feats of his now 14-year career. Big Ben was back for 2020, but in name only as his arm completed its noodlefication following 2019 elbow surgery. If you think that is just an uninformed blogger’s opinion, ask the Steelers, who required their 17-year franchise player to take a pay cut to return for 2021. The Steelers know Tomlin can lead a football team, even if he’s not always sure when to challenge or call a timeout. That was again vividly demonstrated in the Steelers’ dismal Wild Card defeat to end 2020-21. Sunday Tomlin too often undermines Monday-Saturday Tomlin. The trade off has nevertheless been worth it for a franchise with only three head coaches since 1969, and zero losing seasons on Tomlin’s watch. Tomlin isn’t perfect. As 2020 Bill Belichick proved, no coach is.
The top 10 was rounded out by Pete Carroll, Bruce Arians, and Kyle Shanahan. Surprisingly, he only ranks Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski 16th, after leading the franchise to its first winning record since 2007, its first playoff appearance since 2002, and its first playoff win since 1994. In his first season. For which he won the Coach of the Year Award.
Tomlin led his Steelers to a 12-4 record last year before failing in the postseason. They started out 11-0, the best start in franchise history. Many regard the 8-8 2019 season as one of his best coaching displays when they were without Ben Roethlisberger nearly all season, very nearly salvaging a playoff spot before a late-season collapse.