For any franchise in the National Football League, winning a championship is the goal of each season. For some franchises, that road is less bumpy than others. In Pittsburgh, winning a championship isn’t simply a goal each season for the Steelers. It’s an expectation of the players, coaches and fans that the team will finish each season by hoisting another Lombardi Trophy for their collection.
Unfortunately, there’s a vast difference between what is expected and what actually happened in 2011.
You can look into any number of contributing factors for failure of a team to win a championship, but the cold reality is that when a team fails, people look at the man in charge for answers. That man is Mike Tomlin, the team’s head coach.
The questions have been asked since the day he was hired by the team and are being asked once again: Is Tomlin the best coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers? Is he the man to lead the Steelers to the top?
The answer to that question for me has been and will continue to be yes.
Let me give you a little background here.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had three head coaches since 1969 (Tomlin, Bill Cowher and Chuck Noll). During that time, the franchise has won a record six championships, eight conference titles, 20 division titles and a record number (for the modern era) of regular season and playoff games. They’re living proof that consistency at the top pays off in the results.
Tomlin is now part of that consistency equation. During his five seasons with the team, the Steelers have been to two Super Bowls, won one of them and won the AFC North Division three times. They’ve made four playoff appearances and have never had a losing record.
The Steelers only missed playoff season came in 2009 when they just didn’t have the right tiebreakers at the end of the year.
For most people, that’s enough to seal the deal. Tomlin stays until he’s ready to leave.
If you still have doubt, I’ll go further.
Coaching has several intangibles attached to it. A good coach must know his personnel, be able to motivate them every week, be able to develop talent along with a competent coaching staff and manage all of the aspects of running the team on the field.
Tomlin has had his hiccups. He could have handled the injuries to LaMarr Woodley and Ben Roethlisberger better. He could be better with clock management at times. He hasn’t always motivated the team every single week of every single season.
The difference between him and a guy like Eric Mangini is that those are hiccups, not trends.
Tomlin does a lot of things consistently well too. I would say over 90 percent of his job is done as good as or better than the league’s other elite coaches.
He has put together a staff along with General Manager Kevin Colbert that is excellent at finding and developing talent. The Steelers are one of the top drafting teams in the NFL and haven’t slipped from that under Tomlin. He also is excellent at getting backups motivated to perform in starting roles when injuries happen. His “next man up” philosophy where expectations don’t change is a big reason the Steelers have survived some major injuries.
Tomlin also has the respect and ear of his players. During a difficult year such as 2011, that’s easy to lose. Look at Norv Turner in San Diego. Turner is a good coach, but I feel like he lost the Chargers in the middle of the year. Tomlin has never lost control of his team or lost the respect of his personnel. That’s invaluable and tells you all you need to know about how he’s perceived as a coach inside the organization.
If he has one failing, it’s his blind loyalty to his offensive coordinator, who’s been publicly maligned since he took the job yet has consistently enjoyed the unfailing support of the head coach and quarterback. I won’t pretend to know offense better than Bruce Arians, but I will tell you that there are a bunch of coaches who do know it better.
If that’s Tomlin’s worst attribute, that’s not bad at all.
Mike Tomlin isn’t going anywhere. He shouldn’t be either. Unless he strings along a bunch of listless losing seasons or his team turns on him, he should be roaming the home sideline at Heinz Field. There’s simply nobody better out there for this team.