Mike Tomlin has been the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers for the past 16 years. He’s enjoyed the privilege of coaching perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt for the past six of those years. Watt is hoping that Tomlin is still around to coach the rest of his years as well.
That’s what he told Adam Schein on Mad Dog Sports Radio during his media rounds at the Super Bowl yesterday. It came up when he was asked about why it was so important to him to get a long-term extension done in Pittsburgh.
“Just to be a Pittsburgh Steeler long-term, honestly, the city is so incredible, the fans are awesome”, he said. “And then you talk about Mike T, that was a huge part of it, wanting to play for him for hopefully the rest of my career, and the guys in that building. I think we can do really special things”.
They haven’t yet. In fact, the Steelers haven’t won a single postseason game since Watt was drafted, even though they have made the playoffs three times since then—which still isn’t good. But he believes they are on the cusp of the next great era for the team.
That’s because they still have a talented defense while the offense is being put together. He’s bought into Kenny Pickett as their quarterback after watching him come from behind and do what needs to be done to win late in the season. He’s watched the offense grow and believes it will continue in that direction.
And he also believes in Tomlin as the guy to continue to oversee the development not just of the offense, but of the entire team. “He finds ways, no matter who you are, where you’re from, if you’re a first-round pick, if you’re an undrafted free agent, to motivate you”, he said.
He was even more pointed in a brief comment that he made when speaking to Zach Gelb for CBS Sports Radio. “Mike T is a phenomenal coach. I wouldn’t want to play with any other coach”, he said flat out.
Nobody in a Steelers uniform who was drafted into the organization and is still here has ever played for anybody else. Not Watt. Not Cameron Heyward. Not Chris Boswell. Ben Roethlisberger was the last one of that era. Before him, who was the last to retire? Greg Warren, the long snapper?
This has been Tomlin’s team for a long time now, and the leaders of that locker room want it to stay that way. Chances are, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. The Steelers are not exactly an organization that feels the public pressure to make decisions based on received opinion.
That doesn’t mean things need to change. He has some time as they adjust to a new era at quarterback, sure, but five years from now? What if Pickett isn’t the guy? How long is Tomlin’s leash then? And exactly how long does Watt intend to play, anyway?