Since the NFL merger in 1970, the New York Jets, the team the Steelers beat in the AFC Championship Game, have gone through 15 head coaches. The Green Bay Packers, the team the Steelers will play in the Super Bowl, have only gone through nine.
The Steelers find themselves on their third coach in that time period—and it appears number four is nowhere in sight.
And now, Mike Tomlin.
No one likes to be a rebound. When Cowher retired in 2006, Steelers nation could be excused for thinking his successor would have trouble meeting Cowher’s success. When Tomlin went from long-shot candidate to front-runner after an interview with the Rooneys, fans had to be scratching their heads wondering what he said.
Tomlin’s success has moved that interview to become merely a footnote in a coaching career marked by Super Bowls, not controversy.
A .623 winning percentage and 12 postseason wins is hard to match, but Tomlin has already matched Cowher’s lone Super Bowl win, becoming the youngest coach in history to win a Super Bowl.
A championship this year will raise the ante and put Tomlin on track to compete with Chuck Noll for the “Best Coach in Franchise History” title.
Tomlin has not simply been mooching off of Cowher’s success. The Steelers faced trials on their way to the No. 2 seed, including Roethlisberger’s four-game suspension to start the season, that Tomlin helped his team overcome.
The team won three of four during that stretch and came together in the face of adversity. When Roethlisberger returned, the Steelers continued winning until they found themselves in the Super Bowl.
No coach is always good-natured, either. At a press conference earlier last week, Tomlin called out an ESPN reporter for tipping inside information from a practice. It’s a fine line between media savvy and curmudgeon, but Tomlin walks it with grace and ferocity.
Pittsburgh football teams have a reputation—a reputation that has remained constant throughout the tenures of all three coaches.
Look up hard-nosed, smash-mouth football in the dictionary of football phraseology and there will be a player in a Steelers uniform—and you can probably guess who coached the guy in the picture. At least you have a one-in-three shot.