Personally, I would not have done it. If I were the Pittsburgh Steelers I would not have extended Head Coach Mike Tomlin’s contract, yet. Obviously the Steelers care little for what I have to say because they gave Tomlin a one year extension with a team option for another. Prior to this, he had two years remaining. This is typical practice for the Steelers when their head coach has two years left. Probably not on accident, his contract runs parallel to that of his aging quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. This suggests that the two may ride off into the sunset at the same time but that remains to be seen.
Let’s get one thing very, very clear. Mike Tomlin is a damn good football coach. Despite losing challenges, losing games he “shouldn’t have” and being unable to topple the Patriots, Tomlin has built one hell of a resume. Many will point to his postseason record of 8-7 as not good enough and I agree. It isn’t good enough. There are too many ‘bad’ losses in there but I also can’t argue that short of Bill Belicheck, he’s been one of the most successful coaches in the NFL. But he has some things to get back in line. His former tight end Jesse James referred to the team as “The Kardahsians.” His quarterback is constantly under fire from talking heads who blame him for the team’s struggles and… Tomlin presided over a pretty epic collapse last season too.
Are those the reasons I wouldn’t extend him right now? For me it’s pretty straightforward. I need to see what Mike Tomlin can do now that he’s done dealing with the “drama” that’s engulfed this franchise in recent years. It won’t be easy either. The Steelers’ schedule (while it ranks 19th easiest) is brutal based on projections and where games take place. While it will change as future opponents’ fortunes will too due to injuries or losses, as it exists right now the schedule is going to be a major hill to climb. If Tomlin can coach this team not just to a postseason berth but to an AFC Championship Game, then I’ll be convinced and would welcome the contract extension. I just don’t see a need for it now.
What Tomlin has in his favor is Roethlisberger and patience. It’s unlikely the front office would ever change coaches with Big Ben so late in his career and the Rooney’s are among the more patient and steady owners in all of professional sports. Knee jerk reactions are not something they do. Still, I need to see Tomlin check some boxes that he’s been missing. I need to see improvement in things like challenges, defensive play and game management and I don’t think that’s asking for a lot.
By holding off on his extension the level of motivation would be slightly higher as I see it. Tomlin would argue it can never be higher for him personally and I would expect nothing less from him. The Rooney’s feel that giving the extension is a vote of confidence and with that no longer on Tomlin’s mind they feel it will bring more positive results. My cohorts here at SCB are much more Pro-Tomlin than I am but then that suggests I’m “anti-Tomlin” which I am not at all.
What I am is concerned. Last year was a tough pill to swallow on a dozen or so fronts. I realize some teams would die for our problems and to be complaining about so many good seasons but I can’t view things like that. My expectations are higher and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that is there? Ultimately, all I can do is see what’s been in front of me in recent seasons and as far as I’m concerned it’s time to go above the bar not be at it or below it. I’m looking at you Coach Tomlin.