Mike Tomlin was the third head coach to be hired by the Rooney’s since 1969, and he was also the third hire who came to Pittsburgh without a big name or any fanfare. Like the two legends before him, Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher, Tomlin started as the youngest head coach in the league, but he seemed to have wisdom beyond his years. Mike Tomlin, however wasn’t a very popular choice when he was announced as the guy who was replacing Bill Cowher. Mike who? When Tomlin first took over in 2007, he was criticized for working the team too hard in camp. Tomlin’s physical camp was criticized, because it wore the players out by the end of the season, and led to an early postseason exit. Bill Cowher’s first few camps were pretty physical as well. When Mike Tomlin led the Steelers to the franchise’s sixth Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLIII, he wasn’t given credit because he won it with Bill Cowher’s players. Well, Bill Cowher only won one Super Bowl with his own players. They may have been Cowher’s players, but they would not have won that sixth trophy if they hadn’t bought into what Mike Tomlin was selling.
After the Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl, the front office went all in for one more run, to get a seventh Lombardi. They did this by signing quite a few of their older defensive stars to long term deals for big money. It almost paid off, as the Steelers returned to play in Super Bowl XLV, where they lost to the Green Bay Packers. The Steelers are still feeling the financial ramifications of those deals today, as they have had to rebuild the defense while barely remaining cap compliant. They have had to let younger talent leave because it was too expensive to cut the older, declining veterans with those big contracts. Through it all, Mike Tomlin has kept the Steelers relevant and competitive. For someone who hasn’t had a losing season in his nine years with the Steelers, it’s absolutely amazing how often people call for Mike Tomlin to be fired. It’s even more baffling what he gets criticized for. Some individual even claimed that he has been outcoached in over half of his games with the Steelers.
These criticisms, and calls for Mike Tomlin to be fired, are why there are only 32 NFL General Managers and Head Coaches in the world. Unlike fans, these individuals usually remove their emotions from the decision making process and base them on logic and common sense. In alot of cases, when you’re tight up against the salary cap, decisions are based on financial factors as well. According to many fans, Tomlin needs to be fired for every missed tackle or blown coverage. He is blamed, it seems, for any general lack of execution on any play that’s called, especially on defensive side of the ball. Considering all the player injuries he’s had to coach around this season, and the lack of finances to address the needs of the secondary, due cap constraints, Mike Tomlin has done a heck of a job keeping the team focused and in contention. With Kelvin Beachum, Maurkice Pouncey and LeVeon Bell lost to IR, and through the loss Ben Roethlisberger, Will Allen and Ryan Shazier to multiple games, the players have succeeded because they have bought into Tomlin’s next man up philosophy. At 7-5, the Steelers still control their own postseason destiny. How many other teams could have survived what the Steelers have gone through this season, and remained in contention?
For those who are determined to see Tomlin removed, who is out their that’s available and wants to coach, that would be an improvement? Of the coaches that are going to be fired at the end of this season, do you honestly think any one of them would be better suited than Tomlin, to lead the Steelers? The worst thing about what the NFL has become, is that it’s evolved into a what have you done for me lately league, it’s all about instant gratification. Fans are forsaking the patience necessary to build a long term sustainable winner because they want one now. Not even through nine complete seasons yet as a head coach, Mike Tomlin has led the Steelers into two Super Bowl appearances, winning one of them. He has a career record of 89-51, good for 45th place all-time. His career winning percentage of .636 is the most in franchise history, and ranks 12th all-time for all coaches with at least 50 wins. According to Tomlin, even with all the injuries, they will not be an excuse to lose, that’s not an option. As a result of his next man up philosophy, Mike Tomlin just might be pulling off the best coaching job of his career.