The Pittsburgh Steelers have extended the contract of head coach Mike Tomlin. Coach Tomlin had one year remaining on his original contract, which was signed in 2007.
Terms of Tomlin’s new contract were not revealed. However, the new deal reportedly will keep Tomlin with the Steelers through 2014.
Typically, the Steelers would extend former coach Bill Cowher whenever he had two years remaining on his contract. When the Steelers didn’t do so with Tomlin, some wondered whether the Steelers were happy with Tomlin’s performance. As silly as it may sound, I have even heard Steelers fans say that Tomlin should be fired.
Many blame Tomlin for the Steelers’ failure to defend their Super Bowl title. Not only did the Steelers fail to defend, they didn’t even make the playoffs last season. Despite key injuries to Troy Polamalu, Aaron Smith, and Darnell Stapleton, some fans still felt that the blame rested clearly on Tomlin’s shoulders.
I’ve heard other Steelers fans argue that Tomlin is the reason that the Steelers have abandoned the team’s traditional “smash mouth” running game. They say that Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians wouldn’t have Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball all over the field if Tomlin didn’t allow him to. They say that Tomlin vowed to maintain the Steelers’ emphasis on the running game when he interviewed for the job, but then he failed to uphold that promise. To these fans, that is ample reason for Tomlin to lose his job.
Finally, I have heard fans argue that it was Tomlin’s fault that players like Santonio Holmes, Jeff Reed, and Ben Roethlisberger were getting into trouble off the field. They argued that Tomlin wasn’t as much of a disciplinarian as Bill Cowher was, and that Cowher never would have allowed those types of shenanigans to go on.
I have to disagree with all three of these arguments. In my opinion, Tomlin has done a good job, and he deserved to have his contract extended.
The injuries that the Steelers suffered last year clearly hurt the team. We all knew that Troy was important to the team, but last year made it very clear just how important he is. But despite the injuries, the team had a chance to win just about every game that they lost. In fact, most of their losses were by 7 points or less. Had a play or two gone differently, the team could have easily made the playoffs.
As far as the team’s wide open offense goes, I am a fan. There are not many teams in the NFL whose fans would complain about having a quarterback who passed for over 4,000 yards, two receivers who each had over 1,000 yards receiving, and a running back who had over 1,000 yards rushing. Yet, that is exactly what many Steelers fans did. They would have preferred for Roethlisberger to have 2,500 yards passing, and Rashard Mendenhall to have 1,600 yards rushing. To them, that would have been Steelers football. But the reality is that the NFL is now a passing league. Last year’s Super Bowl featured Drew Brees and Peyton Manning. Need I say more?
Finally, I disagree with those who say that Bill Cowher would have somehow kept the Steelers’ players from getting into trouble. Just how would he have done that? I seem to remember Joey Porter getting into trouble constantly under Cowher’s watch. Would Cowher have traveled with Big Ben as part of his posse? If not, how would he have prevented Ben from partying like a rock star? Newsflash: Ben partied like a rock star when Cowher was here. Is there anyone who actually believes that Santonio Holmes didn’t smoke his first blunt until AFTER Mike Tomlin became coach? I didn’t think so.
The truth of the matter is that Mike Tomlin has done a very similar job as Bill Cowher. In their first three seasons, their records are almost exactly the same. Cowher was 32-16, and Tomlin was 31-17. Only one win separates them. On the other hand, Chuck Noll was 12-30 in his first 3 seasons with the Steelers. I guess many of today’s fans would have fired Noll before he ever led the team to their first Super Bowl.
It’s true that the Steelers did go 9-7 last season, and failed to defend their Super Bowl title. But in Cowher’s last year, the team went 8-8, and also failed to defend their Super Bowl title.
The bottom line is that Mike Tomlin’s performance after 3 years is very similar to Bill Cowher’s. Moreover, he has already won a Super Bowl, something Cowher didn’t do until his 14th season with the team. Failing to extend Tomlin would have raised questions that I don’t think anyone in the Rooney family would have had a logical answer to. The Rooney’s have been successful by standing by their coaches. They know that continuity is a key component of success.
Congratulations on the contract extension Coach Tomlin. You deserve it.
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