Overreactions from Steelers Nation: #HereWeGo… again… with Mike Tomlin

Welcome to my weekly edition of “Overreactions from Steelers Nation”. This week, I’m trying to figure out if Steelers fans even watch the games!

I’ve been to some ugly football games in my life. This past Sunday, was one of the worst – may be the worst, as the Steelers were absolutely pummeled by the Cincinnati Bengals.

But that will pale in comparison to the filth I saw following the game, come from those who consider themselves a part of Pittsburgh’s fan base. You see, there’s an entitled set of brats out there, some of who I believe never saw the Steelers have a losing season – the last of which was in 2003, nearly 20 years ago now.

That’s right, the men who don the Black and Gold on Sunday owe you victory each and every time. When they don’t win, you find reasons to be angry. It’s a problematic part of the small world the Internet, and especially social media has created. Anyone with an opinion can say it – and usually with no recourse.

It’s where I find myself in the unenviable position of once again defending Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who for some reason, draws the ire of this entitled group the most.

You see, to them, Mike Tomlin isn’t a good head coach. They mock the fact he hasn’t had a losing season or has surpassed Bill Cowher in franchise wins, by saying things such as “8-8”, as if the NFL routinely creates undefeated teams each season.

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I hate to break it to this angry entitled mob, but that’s a fantasy nowhere rooted in reality.

Teams eventually lose. It’s inevitable. And when they don’t lose, we wait for them to eventually do so. The remaining members of the only group to have a perfect season, the ’72 Dolphins, pop champagne each time the next hopefuls fail.

While we’re on the Dolphins, maybe we should talk about how they weren’t always perfect either. Don Shula, the winningest coach in NFL history, won two Super Bowls (and an NFL Championship) during his 33 years in the league.

8-8 you say?

Shula had several of those seasons, many with only nine wins too, and yes, his playoff record stands at 19 wins… but also 17 losses. (What a bum!)

How Mike Tomlin has fared in the postseason versus his peers

Losing is inevitable in the NFL. There are no Golden State Warriors or Miami Heat super teams. There will always be 31 losers, and seldom, repeat winners – save the stupid and unrepeatable bar Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots achieved.

It’s those Patriots who were often a thorn in the side of Tomlin. They were also a problem for his predecessor, Bill Cowher, who also had his share of shortcomings – including a Super Bowl loss and four AFC title game losses before he finally hoisted his one and only Lombardi trophy.

Another knock on Tomlin is his postseason record, while Cowher’s stands at 12 wins and 9 losses. (After all, playoff losses are a thing.)

I wonder if people said the same things about Bill Cowher and Dan Rooney as they do Mike Tomlin and Art Rooney, talking their wall in the house before there was a wall to speak to on social media?

Did Mike Tomlin win with “Bill Cowher’s players”? Maybe a handful of them

Critics claim that Tomlin inherited Cowher’s team, one which missed the postseason as defending Super Bowl Champions, before handing it over to Tomlin: who was then three years removed from the Super Bowl XL winning team before becoming the youngest head coach to hold the trophy himself.

It’s strange because I recall Jerome Bettis wrapping up his career in Detroit, long before Tomlin arrived in Tampa for Super Bowl XLIII. Some other not-so-familiar faces, such as LaMarr Woodley or Lawrence Timmons, weren’t on Cowher’s team and never played for him.

Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu were, with a few select others, and for that, Tomlin’s accomplishments are forever in the long shadow of the coach who came before him, even if that coach often had some of the same setbacks.

Those who blame Tomlin but excuse “The Chin” will claim Cowher didn’t have a quarterback. At times Tomlin had to endure with Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich, Landry Jones, Dennis Dixon, Michael Vick, Mason Rudolph, and Devlin Hodges, yet still never had a… wait for it… losing season.

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Then there’s Neil O’Donnell, who oddly, was gifted to Cowher by the coach who preceded his tenure, Chuck Noll. (Sound familiar?) Fans loathe the name of O’Donnell, famous for blowing Super Bowl XXX with three inopportune interceptions after tossing all of seven that same season.

However, O’Donnell was a coveted quarterback. His Super Bowl flop didn’t stop the New York Jets from signing him to a then lucrative five-year, $25 million contract. At the time, the 1996 salary cap was $40.75 million per team. (Do the math!)

In fact, the Steelers made O’Donnell a solid offer to stay (about one million per year off of what the Jets were offering). Pittsburgh even matched what Tampa Bay tried giving him three seasons earlier too, matching the Bucs’ offer at the eleventh hour.

That made O’Donnell the highest-paid player on the team, making almost double the previous top-earner: Rod Woodson.

The quarterback argument even goes back as far as the 1980s, where these “fans” lament the dark ages of a team that passed on drafting Pitt’s Dan Marino in 1983. But need I remind those who felt Marino would’ve saved the franchise, that the Hall of Fame quarterback, with his aforementioned Hall of Fame coach, Shula, combined for the same number of Super Bowl rings that you and I are wearing right now: zero.

Apparently, with each loss on Sunday, the Steelers are one step closer to falling into the same downward spiral, as Roethlisberger’s retirement looms as he approaches his 40th birthday. Even with six games remaining in the 2021 season, they want the quarterback of the future now.

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Heck, most of them still complain about passing on Lamar Jackson. Forget that the Steelers needed a safety. Let’s take a quarterback in the first round who would’ve sat behind 35-year-old franchise QB, Ben Roethlisberger, and received as much playing time as… Mason Rudolph.

That doesn’t seem like a smart move, especially when the Ravens have had to overhaul their offense to fit Jackson’s strengths. But say the Steelers went that route. Compared with Tomlin’s Steelers, John Harbaugh and the Ravens have won two postseason games since their Super Bowl season in 2012…

And that’s with an MVP under center in Jackson (who himself has only one playoff win to show for in three seasons thus far).

Like it or not there are not many who have the resume or accomplishments of Mike Tomlin. For his critics, that’s not being complacent or accepting mediocrity as the new norm. It’s understood that dynasties are rare. So rare, that there’s maybe a handful of them to ever step onto the gridiron.

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Since the Steelers were one of those rare teams to win consistently, it has made fans so spoiled that they feel entitled to a win: not only each season but each Sunday. When they don’t get their way, they act like a petulant child who had their favorite toy taken away.

Their next reaction is to find someone or something to blame for their spoiled behavior.

I hate to tell yinz this, but it’s not Mike Tomlin’s fault.

Unless your name is Tom Brady, chances are you won’t need a jewelry armoire to show off the hardware you’ve won. Marino was already mentioned, but let’s not forget the list of others with only a championship or two to count on their resume, or maybe none! Harbaugh, Sean Payton, Pete Carroll, and Andy Reid are among the current guard. Many of the old guard include names such as Cowher, John Madden, Tony Dungy, Marv Levy, and more.

Instead, fans should thank Tomlin for the last 15 seasons.

Because of his success, you can behave like a toddler and have been spared the true misery that has behest fans of other franchises such as the Browns, Bengals, Bills, Jags, Jets, Dolphins, Raiders, and more who have instead, truly been mediocre for the better part of the last two decades.

4 responses to “Overreactions from Steelers Nation: #HereWeGo… again… with Mike Tomlin”

  1. 73rickd says:

    The standard used to be playoffs and Superbowls, it’s now become non losing seasons. That is a change of culture, Pittsburgh has become the Browns, Bills , and Bengals. It will only get worse , Tomlin and Colbert have apparently forgotten the game is won and lost in the trenches. They elected to take 2 luxury picks, instead of fixing the O-line, we have seen those results. This team is constantly unprepared, predictable, and out coached, who is to blame for that ? This is no longer the proud franchise it once was, and if the head coach isn’t to blame then who is?

    • Joe Kuzma says:

      Rick, thanks for signing up to comment.

      I suggest you read the supporting articles attached with it above. This addresses a lot of what you’re asking. Also, I don’t believe anyone was calling the Steelers these things during their 11-0 unbeaten streak last season.

      As for “luxury picks”, let me ask you this: if the Steelers don’t select Harris or Freiermuth this season, how many games do they win? Who is their RB? TE?

      What OT should they have taken over Harris? At this point, the next five haven’t amounted to anything, if much – including Tevin Jenkins, who hasn’t and may never suit for the Bears!

      Creed Humphrey is the only question mark for me, but his injury history made him a huge gamble too. Had the Steelers taken him (likely round two) and then he blows out a knee, then what?

      I discuss a lot of what happened with the OL this Summer in this article too: https://www.steelcityunderground.com/2021/09/29/overreactions-from-steelers-nation-replacing-big-ben-ol-cant-be-fixed/

      In short, they didn’t even have a camp together.

  2. 73rickd says:

    Time together has nothing to do with the offense line constantly being driven in to Ben’s face, that’s lack of strength. This team has been throwing 1st round pick after 1st round pick at the defense, and has been counting on Ben to be able to raise the team up. Once again comes down to failed planning .

    Najee has done nothing with his 196 attempts, Lamar Jackson a QB, has 123 attempts and is one yard behind him . I don’t blame him for having one of the worst lines in the league, but it shows that the drafting was dead wrong. They could have resigned Connor (12 td) then taking a running back wouldn’t have been important.

    It didn’t really matter which player they took, as long as they went with a lineman, you can at least see they made it a priority. Especially considering they brought Ben back, if this was their plan I’d rather see Mason getting knocked around instead of Ben.

    Injuries are part of the game, the Ravens lost how many starters and are still winning, and most likely will win the division . There were plenty of people calling the Steelers the worst 11-0 team ever, the offense went 3 and out so many times, it just became expected.

    I’ll never be sorry for scrutinizing the team, I remember the greats of the 70’s, as well at the futility of the 80’s . The culture change is a very real and frightening aspect of the game, it starts with ” At least we didn’t have a losing season,” and goes downhill from there.

    Is it really sacrilegious to suggest the game has passed Tomlin and Colbert by, it happens to most coaches at one time or another ?

    • Joe Kuzma says:

      So improving the defense is failed planning?
      I know you’re new to this site, but I hope you stick around – and also follow our podcast. We discuss draft pick failure rates quite a bit in the offseason (namely QBs) and how, like winning Super Bowls, having bonafide stars come out of the draft is never a sure thing.
      I also suggest you look at the games the Ravens played: four of those wins are by a FG or less. They’re winning, but it’s because lady luck is on their side, including a historic NFL record FG which bounced off of the crossbar and through the uprights.
      I also don’t believe time has passed them by either. It used to be the Steelers won’t trade up in the draft, trade a first round pick, or “go get that guy” and they’ve done all of those things in recent years. They even used void years with Ben’s contract and gave TJ Watt guaranteed money that no other Steeler has ever received.

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