Every NFL team takes on the personality of its head coach to a certain extent. Everything about a coach — work ethic, level of discipline, values — gets instilled within their team. Rarely has a bad coach been successful in this league. That goes for Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin.
Tomlin has been the head coach of the Steelers for a long time; 2019 is his 13th season in Pittsburgh. He’s seen both peaks and valleys during his tenure. Near the beginning of the 2019 season, it appeared as though he and the team were experiencing an extended valley. But the way Tomlin has led them in 2019, he deserves to be NFL Coach of the Year. Here’s why.
Mike Tomlin’s career overview
Before coaching the Steelers, Tomlin was the defensive backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2001-2005. Then he was the defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings for one season before the Steelers hired him. Here’s what he’s accomplished in his decade-plus run as a head coach in the NFL:
- 206 games coached
- Win-loss record of 133-72-1
- Winning percentage of .648
- 15 playoff games coached
- Playoff win-loss record of 8-7
- One Super Bowl title
- Two AFC championships
As an assistant, Tomlin worked under Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, and Brad Childress. Some notable assistants who worked under him include Bruce Arians, Dick LeBeau, Mike Munchak, and Todd Haley. So he’s worked for and with some of the best in the game, and that experience came in handy during some recent seasons in the Steel City.
Pittsburgh’s nightmarish run from 2017-2019
While Mike Tomlin has one of the longest tenures in the league as a head coach, the last few seasons have truly tested him. Here are just a few of the bad breaks the team has caught from 2017 onward:
- 2017: The Steelers lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game.
- 2018: The Steelers failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
- After arguing with the team for the better part of the season, star receiver Antonio Brown didn’t show up for the critical final game versus Cincinnati, paving the way for a Steelers loss that kept them out of the postseason. Star running back Le’Veon Bell sat out the entire season and then departed via free agency. Brown forced his way out of town with a trade to Oakland.
- 2019: Rumors abound that some of the Steelers’ minority ownership did not want the team to give Tomlin an extension. Franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered an early season-ending injury as the team fell into an 0-3 hole to begin the year.
Tomlin and the team have clearly been under fire for quite a while now. So how has he salvaged this season?
Why Mike Tomlin deserves to be NFL Coach of the Year
Tomlin last won NFL Coach of the Year in 2008, the year the Steelers won the Super Bowl. While a Super Bowl victory will be hard to come by for Pittsburgh this season, that doesn’t make Tomlin’s coaching job any less impressive.
After 14 games, Pittsburgh sits at 8-6 and in possession of the final wild-card spot in the AFC. Anything can happen over the remaining few weeks of the season, and there are still multiple teams in contention for that final spot. But even if the Steelers lose their last two games, Tomlin has done enough to earn the award. Simply keeping the Steelers in contention this late in the season while losing two standout players in the offseason and being forced to use three starting quarterbacks under center is almost a miracle in and of itself.
After relying on Roethlisberger for his entire career, this season, Tomlin has won with two young quarterbacks: Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. Despite all the off the field issues and injuries, Mike Tomlin has kept this team moving forward with a steady hand, proving that he truly is a great coach worthy of Coach of the Year consideration.