Mike Tomlin is still the best option for the Steelers going forward

I have no doubt that there’s mixed emotions among Steelers Nation after Tuesday morning’s announcement that head coach Mike Tomlin has been extended an additional three years – lasting through the 2024 season.

There’s a lot of bad arguments out there to not retain Tomlin, and I believe those are unfounded. Here’s why the Steelers current head coach is also the best fit for the team’s future.

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Tomlin winning with “Bill Cowher’s players”

Between Cowher’s Super Bowl XL win and Tomlin’s Super Bowl XLIII victory, a grand total of eight starters (or main contributors) carried over between the rosters.

Among the luminaries are Ben Roethlisberger, Troy Polamalu, Heath Miller, and Ike Taylor. However, even Cowher “players” such as James Harrison and Santonio Holmes played no role in Super Bowl XL (or weren’t even on the team yet, in Holmes’ case).

Furthermore, Tomlin’s team featured much more turnover, particularly with the linebackers (LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons) and also the offensive line.

No one ever says that Cowher won with Chuck Noll’s draft picks, Rod Woodson and Dermontti Dawson, who also became Hall of Famers. Therefore, it’s unfair to say the same with Tomlin.

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Why aren’t others blamed for “mediocrity”?

All I hear is how the Steelers haven’t won X playoff games in Y time. Over the last four seasons, fans have been especially blind to what’s transpired in Pittsburgh.

First, the Steelers lost a bad playoff game following a bye week against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Most people forget that Ryan Shazier was paralyzed and lost for football forever, and with the middle of the field wide-open, the stretch at the end of the season was a total collapse as teams exploited it.

Against the Jags, turnovers killed the Steelers, including a Vance McDonald fumble returned for a touchdown.

That’s not on Mike Tomlin.

The end of 2018 saw a collapse that included a preposterous x-ray machine malfunction in Oakland that kept Big Ben off of the field (the Steelers would lose), Roethlisberger throwing an interception in the endzone against Denver (and then blaming Antonio Brown for it) as well as a ridiculous shootout in New Orleans that saw bad penalties (Joe Haden on Alvin Kamara anyone?) cost the team.

Don’t forget about Brown’s implosion and dismissal from the team also.

Mike Tomlin kept the team relevant without Ben in 2019, but Devlin Hodges would throw six interceptions (and took nine sacks) in the final three games as the Steelers dropped from the playoff scene.

Last year’s Wild Card loss to Cleveland couldn’t have been coaching, could it? Players still have to play: Roethlisberger threw three interceptions in the Steelers first six drives, which also included a bad snap recovered in the endzone by Cleveland for a touchdown.

The offense choking in these two postseason games saw the offensive coordinators, Todd Haley and Randy Fichtner, get the axe. Each of those OC’s were chased out of the Steel City for bad offensive performances which were capitalized by the worst output in the playoffs.

The Steelers have been busy this winter break, revamping the offensive staff after a failure to put up points and convert key plays. Just how much of that blame lies on Tomlin is debatable.

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Life beyond Ben

A lot of the critics are smiling and awaiting Tomlin’s failure without Ben Roethlisberger. They welcome the idea of three more years to prove they were right and that Tomlin is “overrated”.

The real issue with this thinking is that Tomlin has coached the Steelers to success without Big Ben many times in the past.

Among the quarterbacks that Tomlin has coached, and won games with, includes Dennis Dixon, Byron Leftwich, Charlie Batch, Michael Vick, Landry Jones, Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges.

No coach can win the Super Bowl every year. All you can ask is to get your team in the conversation.

I’d much rather a coach who can get their team to the playoffs on a regular basis than be a fan of a franchise who has to wait 10-20 years for a single appearance!

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Tomlin versus his peers

Tomlin can be favorably compared with others such as Sean Payton, Andy Reid, Pete Carroll, and John Harbaugh. Each of those coaches, save for Reid’s recent wins, has had a lot of playoff success as of late – and aside from Reid, none has hoisted a Lombardi since their last one either.

Critics will point out hotshot coaches such as Sean McVay, Sean McDermott, or Matt LaFleur as the upcoming young coaches who have seemingly given their teams a shot in the arm.

The problem is, is it temporary? And just how satisfied are these fan bases?

Doug Pederson won a Super Bowl for the Eagles and is already gone from the team after winning it all in 2017.

McVay got the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018, then missed the postseason the following year, and lost the Divisional Round in 2020.

McDermott enters year five after getting the Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999 during the 2017 season – he would have to wait three years (2020) to win the franchise’s first playoff game since 1995!

Packers fans ran Mike McCarthy out of town after he couldn’t win without Aaron Rodgers – again, something Mike Tomlin has demonstrated he can do is win without his franchise quarterback.

McCarthy’s replacement, Matt LaFleur, has brought Green Bay to the NFC Championship game two years in a row – and lost both.

Losing a conference championship isn’t the bar set for success according to Tomlin critics, however. (Who also dismiss the coach’s trip to the AFC title game in 2016 in a loss to New England.)

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Final Thoughts

The double standards are frustrating, because 31 teams will not win the Super Bowl each year. I’d much prefer see a team on a winning track with a shot to win it all than sit for five years rebuilding.

I believe Mike Tomlin has the defensive players in place to continue winning beyond Ben Roethlisberger’s career. He has also shown that he can manage the team to victory without him.

That’s why I believe Tomlin is the best choice, still, going forward.

He has the system in place to continue plugging in players, but ultimately, this is a QB-driven league. Even the mighty Bill Belichick has missed out on the postseason in each year he was without Tom Brady (2020 and 2008.)

Yet, if you were to remove a great coach like Belichick, Tomlin, or others like Harbaugh and Carroll from these equations – QB or not – these teams would be far worse off than they have been.

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