Not many NFL franchises can boast having one head coach who has won a hundred games or more for them, let alone have two of them. After next season, the Pittsburgh Steelers just might have three head coaches in their history that will have hit the century mark in career wins, all with Steelers. What is even more impressive, is that the mark will have been reached by their third head coach in a row. Since 1970, the Steelers have had only three head coaches, the fewest of any franchise by far. Chuck Noll was hired in 1969, Bill Cowher replaced Noll in 1992, and Mike Tomlin replaced Bill Cowher in 2007. From 1969-1991, Chuck Noll won 193 regular season games for the Steelers, Bill Cowher won 149 games from 1992-2006, and Mike Tomlin has won 86 from 2007-Present.
This coaching threesome has already achieved another obscure mark in 2008, when the Steelers became just the second NFL franchise, and the first in the AFC, to have three consecutive head coaches win a Super Bowl Championship. Soon they be the first franchise to have three head coaches who have won 50 home games. They also lead the NFL in coaching wins since 1970, that’s an average length of 15.3 years that each of the three men coached. Think about that for a minute, then consider that over the same period of time, the Cleveland Browns have had 17 head coaches, or, a new coach every 2.01 years. In the last 46 years, Noll, Cowher and Tomlin have combined for 428 regular season wins, while the 17 Cleveland Browns head coaches have combined for 253. In another comparison, let’s use the NFL’s second choice to be “America’s Team”, the Dallas Cowboys. Since 1969, the Cowboys have had 8 coaches, or a new coach every 5.75 years. Those 8 coaches combined for 386 wins. That’s 175 more wins that the Steelers three head coaches have over the Browns 17, and 46 wins more than the Cowboys 8 head coaches.
For the Steelers, the formula used to hire Noll, Cowher, and Tomlin was the same. They chose a young, relatively obscure defensive assistant with a clear vision on how to build a team through the draft. While all of their coaching styles have been different, they all have had one thing in common, a team first philosophy. How much different might things have been if the first candidate approached in 1969, Joe Paterno, had taken the job? I’m sure the Steelers would have certainly improved by comparison to where they had been, but not nearly to level as it stands today. It was definitely a blessing in disguise when Paterno said no, because Chuck Noll’s vision is what the Steelers needed. It was his vision that became the Steeler way, which has become the standard which has stood the test of time.
When Mike Tomlin eclipses 100 regular season wins with the Steelers, and becomes their third consecutive head coach to reach that milestone, it may be the only time it will ever happen. Anything is possible though, and sure, another NFL franchise might end up with 3 different coaches who win 100 games with them. I would, however, place the odds of having three consecutive coaches accomplishing that, somewhere between the Cleveland Browns winning a Super Bowl and Johnny Manziel being the Super Bowl MVP in that game. Hopefully, when Mike Tomlin gets his 100th career win with the Steelers, and becomes the third straight coach to get there, the franchise as a whole gets the credit they deserve. It may not get them a trophy, or any other kind of award, but what it means is, that for the last 46 years, no other franchise has done it better in the front office, on the field, and along the sidelines.