Mike Tomlin has captained the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2007, after taking over a historic franchise with high expectations placed upon him and following in the footsteps of Bill Cowher and previously Chuck Noll. Tomlin delivered right away for Pittsburgh, winning the Super Bowl in just his second season and getting his team back into the big dance two years later.
Famously known for never having a losing season and being a great leader of men, Tomlin is well-respected around the league by players and coaches alike, often being considered one of the best. According to Patrick Daugherty of NBC Sports EDGE, Tomlin ranks in the upper echelon of NFL head coaches. Daugherty put him at #6 in his recently published 2023 NFL coach rankings.
“They keep upping the difficulty level on Mike Tomlin and he keeps finishing above .500,” Daugherty wrote. “At or above .500 is somewhere Tomlin has been for all 16 of his Steelers seasons. Maybe that sounds like we are setting the bar too low. After all, what does .500 really get you? Tomlin hasn’t won a playoff game in six years. But that is the wrong way of looking at it. The higher your baseline is, the more likely it is to produce favored outcomes, and Tomlin’s remains amongst the highest in football. This is a coach whose team started 2-6 with Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett last season and still finished at 9-8.”
The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league in which your previous success can only get you so far regarding your job security. Franchises often give up on a quarterback, head coach, or general manager two to three years in if they aren’t seeing notable results. Frankly, the Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t delivered the results you’d expect from a franchise that has won six Lombardi Trophies. “The Standard” hasn’t been the standard since the early 2010s regarding postseason success as Daugherty mentioned above.
Still, Tomlin has managed to keep mediocre teams afloat and within striking distance of the playoffs despite turnover on the roster. Pittsburgh experienced a massive overhaul heading into last season, losing longtime starting QB Ben Roethlisberger to retirement. The offense was dreadful under OC Matt Canada and All-Pro T.J. Watt was lost for half the season in Week 1. However, Tomlin managed to rally the troops as the Steelers battled their way back into relevance. The same could be said for 2019 when Roethlisberger was lost for the season in Week 2, but Tomlin got his team within a game of the playoffs on the backs of Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges quarterbacking the offense.
Steelers fans haven’t seen the success they have become accustomed to over the last several seasons, and there is no denying that Tomlin needs to get this team back to becoming a title contender again soon. However, he has kept Pittsburgh from becoming a bottom dweller like other teams when attempting a rebuild, remaining competitive regardless of the state of his roster. This is what owner Art Rooney II desires and what the fan base wants to see: their beloved team winning football games and pursuing the playoffs.
With the roster moves Pittsburgh has made this offseason and the draft in a few short weeks, we will see if Tomlin is up to the task of finally breaking that playoff drought and justifying his ranking amongst his peers.
“Tomlin has been on the job long enough that he has dealt with every conceivable issue,” Daugherty wrote. “There have been bad defensive years. Bad offensive line years. The current bad quarterback years. Coordinator problems, Antonio Brown problems, etc. It hasn’t fallen apart because no one holds together a roster like Tomlin.”