At this point in their respective NFL head coaching careers, it’s well known that Pittsburgh Steelers’ longtime coach Mike Tomlin and rising Buffalo Bills star head coach Sean McDermott were college teammates at William & Mary.
That was talked about ad nauseam leading up to the Week 14 game in 2020 in Buffalo on Sunday Night Football. Now, ahead of the 2021 season with the two teams scheduled to kick off the season against each other in Week 1 on Sept. 12, the two former teammates are being talked about once again, this time by CBS Sports, which ranks the former college teammates as the No. 8 coaching matchup in the 10 best coaching matchups in the 2021 season.
CBS Sports’ John Breech took an interesting look at the matchups on paper, ranking the best coaching matchups on paper ahead of the 2021 season. Tomlin-McDermott in Week 1 was slotted in between Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer and Cleveland’s Kevin Stefanski in Week 4 and just behind Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians and Washington’s Ron Rivera in Week 10 in Breech’s list.
“For the most of the past decade, NFL teams have been hiring offensive-minded head coaches, but that doesn’t mean a defensive-minded coach can’t find success in the NFL and two guys two guys who have bucked the offensive trend are Mike Tomlin and Sean McDermott,” Breech writes. “Both defensive-minded coaches have been wildly successful since being hired. For Tomlin, not only does he already have a Super Bowl win under his belt, but he’s never had a losing season during his 14 years in Pittsburgh. On McDermott’s end, he’s led the Bills to the playoffs in three of his four seasons, which is nearly impossible to believe when you consider that they had not made the postseason a single time this century before McDermott’s hiring in 2017.
“The fun twist here is that Tomlin and McDermott were once college teammates at William & Mary. Now, the two former teammates are two of the best coaches in the NFL. These two guys have faced each other twice with the Bills winning both times, so Tomlin will definitely be looking for some revenge in Week 1.”
The Steelers will almost certainly be looking for revenge after looking pretty poor in that Week 14 matchup last season, dropping their second game in a row after starting the season 11-0, raising many questions from the national media on the way to eventually flaming out in the AFC Playoffs.
Pittsburgh had few answers for the Josh Allen-Stefon Diggs connection, and seemingly couldn’t protect Ben Roethlisberger properly against the Bills, resulting in the 26-15 loss.
Now, after a Buffalo run to the AFC Championship Game, the Steelers get the chance to spoil the season-opener in Orchard Park with Tomlin looking to best his college teammate for the first time after dropping the first two matchups in 2019 and 2020.