Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has the 18th-most wins in NFL history. His winning percentage of .643 ranks fifth among all head coaches with at least as many as his 154 career regular-season victories. He has made 10 playoff appearances in 15 seasons with seven division titles. And, that’s right, he’s never had a losing season.
But he does now possess a losing postseason record, for the first time since his first season in the NFL when he won the AFC North but lost to David Garrard and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the Wild Card Round. Tomlin’s team went 3-0 and won the Super Bowl in his second season, and since then, he’d never had worse than an even postseason record. Until now.
Until losing his fourth consecutive playoff game, dropping 42-21 to the Kansas City Chiefs, after bombing out against the Cleveland Browns in the Wild Card Round in 2020. After bombing out against the Jaguars in the Divisional Round as a number two seed in 2017. After having his last decent postseason run end in embarrassing fashion in the AFC Championship Game in 2016 at the hands of the New England Patriots.
The Chiefs, in fact, are the last team Tomlin has beaten in the postseason, back in 2016 in the Divisional Round. The week before that, they defeated a Miami Dolphins team led by Matt Moore in the Wild Card Round.
That year marked one of just three seasons in Tomlin’s 15 years in which he recorded multiple postseason victories—going 3-0 in 2008 with a Super Bowl title, 2-1 in 2010 with a Super Bowl loss, and 2-1 in 2016 with a conference finals appearance.
He, and the Steelers, are now 8-9 in the postseason over the span of the past 15 years.
But that’s actually not as bad as it sounds, and this really wasn’t the angle I intended to take until I looked up the data. His eight postseason wins over the past 15 years still ranks tied for the fifth-most in that span. Only the New England Patriots (18-10), the Green Bay Packers (12-10), the Seattle Seahawks (11-9), and the Baltimore Ravens (11-8) have more. They are tied with the San Francisco 49ers (8-4), the New York Giants (8-2), the New Orleans Saints (8-7), and the Kansas City Chiefs (8-7).
And before you go too far ahead of yourself pointing out low postseason loss totals, remember, that figure, unless you’re the Patriots, means you haven’t been to many postseasons. Take the Giants, for example. They are 8-2. They’ve won two Super Bowls in that span. They’ve only been to the postseason four times. That’s the only reason they have only two losses. They did very well in two of their four postseason runs, but they rarely even make it.
That is not a defense of Tomlin’s postseason record. While it is admirable that he has gotten his team to the playoffs as often as he has, it is an expectation of his job that he gets there every year. It’s also the expectations to go 3-0 or 4-0, if necessary, in the postseason every year. Obviously he was never going to go 45-0, but a losing record in the postseason is indefensible. Similar to Tony Dungy, who went 9-10 in the postseason in his career.