The Pittsburgh Steelers’ string of consistency over the course of the past 50-plus years is one of the more remarkable achievements in American professional sports during that time. It’s a consistency highlighted by stability, not just at the level of owner, but also at head coach.
Virtually every Steelers fan is aware by now of their history. Chuck Noll coached the team for 23 years, followed by Bill Cowher for 15. Now head coach Mike Tomlin is going into his 15th season, and is already under contract for more after signing a recent extension. But how much longer might he be here?
“As long as Mike wants to be there”, Cowher recently told his former player, cornerback Bryant McFadden, on his All Things Covered podcast with Patrick Peterson. “I think the one thing I’ve seen with Mike is he’s so genuine in everything he does. He’s a players’ coach, and I don’t use that as a negative. I hate when people say that ‘players’ coach’ means you’re soft; he’s not that at all. But he’s a guy who can inspire the guys who play for him”.
“His record speaks for itself. His consistency that he has produced, year in and year old. I hope he’s there for a long time, as long as he’s happy being there”, he added. “It’s a demanding job. Pittsburgh’s a small town. Sometimes you’re probably appreciated more outside your city than inside. I think people outside realize how good a coach Mike Tomlin is”.
This has often seemed to be the case, particularly with regard to the perennial ‘fire Mike Tomlin’ sentiments that we see, sometimes even from the local media, though clearly it’s time for Tomlin to start winning in the postseason again.
It’s been a while, and they don’t have an easy path this year. In fact, by many estimates, they have the toughest road ahead of any team in the NFL, and are playing in one of the most competitive divisions, as both the Baltimore Ravens and the Cleveland Browns joined the Steelers in the postseason last year, and the Cincinnati Bengals are on the come, as well.
The Steelers are coming off of a 12-4 season, during which they won the AFC North, but they appear to have few believers after finishing the regular season 1-4 and then being embarrassed in the opening round by the Browns, who scored 28 in the first quarter.
That is Tomlin’s job, as always, to try to correct his team’s mistakes and bring them closer to winning the games that count. It’s been too long since he’s last achieved that, but time and again we find that it’s never easy to win.
“There’s no question that Mike will be there as long as he wants to be there, and he’ll be the first one to know when it’s time to walk away” Cowher observed. He opted to retire after 15 seasons, pretty much right where Tomlin currently is in his career. Somehow, though, I don’t think he’ll make the same decision.