It’s been a repeated and almost tired narrative that Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season in 15 years as the Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. With this being the first season without Ben Roethlisberger, more than ever analysts have been pegging this to be the first year Tomlin will finish below .500.
When NBC Sports writer Peter King brought up the possibility of not winning a lot to him, Tomlin responded “bring it on.” King said he repeated the phrase, and said to quote him on it.
It’s not as if this is the first year where Tomlin has had a flawed roster that could struggle to finish at least .500. He’s had two 8-8 seasons, a 9-7 season, a 9-6-1 and a 9-7-1 season (which happened last year). The idea that Tomlin is above having losing seasons is a little tired and overplayed, but regardless, the challenge of getting this team to .500 is one he seems to be embracing.
When push comes to shove, this is absolutely a team that has the potential to finish at least 9-8. They have a defense that should finish top-ten in the league, an offense that could be better with a revamped offensive line and new playmakers at receiver and a new quarterback.
While the loss of Ben Roethlisberger will hurt given that the team lacks a veteran leader on offense and late in games, an argument could be made that the play of whoever starts this season at quarterback will be an improvement over what Roethlisberger provided the last two seasons. The potential is absolutely there for Pittsburgh to exceed their current expectations and have at least a decent season.
As far as Tomlin goes, while his in-game decision-making isn’t always the best, he’s always managed to rally his guys and earn their respect. That should be no different this year. Having a coach that guys want to play for and give their best effort for is important. That’s something that doesn’t get talked about enough when it comes to Tomlin, as he truly is a coach that players want to win for. That level of motivation is something that can’t be measured and is something that benefits the Steelers.
With that being said, if the Steelers do finish below .500 this year, it’s not really an indictment on Tomlin as a coach. There are a lot of new faces on the team, and it really wouldn’t be surprising if they struggled to click as early or as much as the team would like. Even Bill Belichick has had a losing season, so if Tomlin has one this year, it doesn’t mean he’s a bad coach. It’s good to see him embracing the challenge though, and I’m sure he wants to keep his streak of not having a losing season intact more than anyone.