Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s might wax and wane here and, but over the duration of his coaching career there have been few who have commanded more respect from his peers, his players, and the media for the job he has done and continues to do.
It’s rare that we ever see a ranking of head coaches in which he is not included in the top 10, even if it’s been quite a while since his teams have won a postseason game. For Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, however, he believes Tomlin remains among the very best.
He recently revealed that he has the Steelers head coach ranked second in NFL behind only, presumably, Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs, and just ahead of Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots—which Florio admits might be more controversial on the Steelers end than the Patriots end. This has been an ongoing series, and Tomlin’s ranking hasn’t been officially unveiled in that, but he confirmed as much on the air in advance of that.
“I put him at number two”, he said on 93.7 The Fan today on the Poni and Mueller program. “There’s gonna be some Patriots fans that’ll be upset with me for putting Belichick at three. There might be more Steelers fans upset with me for putting Tomlin in at number two”.
The Baltimore Ravens’ John Harbaugh ranked fourth on Florio’s list with Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks at five. The remaining members of the top 10 included Sean Payton, Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan, Mike Vrabel, and Doug Pederson.
Even though he is among the winningest head coaches of his generation and climbing the all-time wins leaderboards, and is distinguished as possessing the longest streak of non-losing seasons to start a coaching career, especially the latter has become an anchor around his neck.
For many Steelers fans, to get to Florio’s point, it has come to symbolize mediocrity rather than consistent, sustained performance. Of course, that wouldn’t be the case if the lack of losing seasons also came coupled with some more hardware.
Tomlin’s most recent postseason victory came in 2016. His teams have only reached the postseason three times since then, losing in their first appearance in those seasons each time. The Steelers finished 9-8 last season and narrowly missed the playoffs, but did quality the year before with a 9-7-1 record.
“He consistently makes the whole greater than the sum of the parts, consistently, year in and year out”, Florio argued in his favor. “He thrives in adversity, and I think he speaks to each individual player in a way that gets the absolute most out of them. That’s what you’re looking for in a coach”.
Although fans may quibble about the notion of getting more than the sum of each team’s parts—particularly in the Killer Bs era—much of the rest is clearly echoed in what we hear from players from over the course of his coaching tenure.
“I think he’s not appreciated nearly as much as he should be”, he went on to say. “As soon as he’s out the door, there’s gonna be one of those owners sitting there ready to whisk him away and hire him on another team”.
Tomlin is expected to have his contract extended in the very near future, set to embark on his first full season with is own hand-picked franchise quarterback, Kenny Pickett, whom they drafted in the first round a year ago.
This is the next chapter in his legacy, and whether or not it contains substantial postseason success is going to say a lot about what his ultimate reputation will be. Nothing will ever take away his Super Bowl title in 2008 and the early success he had generally, but to have only reached the conference finals once since 2011? That seems like reputation carrying a lot of water.