Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is both universally respected and underrated, as he’s truly one of the best coaches of his era.
Go ahead and count out the Pittsburgh Steelers’ roster. Just don’t count out Mike Tomlin.
This year, the Steelers were awarded two Pro Bowlers in edge rusher T.J. Watt and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. The offense didn’t sniff one. With Watt, the best edge rusher in football, Pittsburgh played seven games without him due to a pectoral injury sustained in Week 1.
Additionally, the Steelers began the year with Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback, and then broke in rookie Kenny Pickett through a pair of concussions. The best receiver on the team is also a rookie, second-round pick George Pickens.
Finally, the AFC North is an excellent division. The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals are going to the playoffs, and the Cleveland Browns are a respectable 7-9.
With all the information above, what would your blind guess be for Pittsburgh’s record through 16 games? 6-10? 5-11?
After starting 2-6, Tomlin has performed his latest miracle. The Steelers are 8-8 and going into Week 18, alive for the AFC’s seventh and final playoff seed.
What needs to happen is simple. Pittsburgh must beat the Browns at home. It then must see losses from the New England Patriots (at Buffalo) and the potentially Skylar Thompson-led Miami Dolphins (vs. New York Jets).
Apparently, there are still some skeptics for Tomlin and his team.
While Tomlin has won a Super Bowl and been to another, the last two seasons are his best work. His defining moments. The Steelers have lacked any discernible offensive talent and the defensive back seven has been a hodgepodge group save for Fitzpatrick.
Yet Pittsburgh made the playoffs last season and could do so once again. All the while, Tomlin’s famed streak of non-losing seasons rolls on, largely because the Steelers force you to beat them. In the NFL, it’s a shockingly rare quality, and a tremendous one to have.
Regardless of what happens in Week 18, Tomlin deserves immense credit. Nobody believed the Steelers would compete for a postseason berth, especially midway through the campaign. Pittsburgh is in the midst of a transformation, moving from almost 20 years of Ben Roethlisberger to what it hopes is an equally long tenure for Pickett.
The 2022 season was a bridge to the future. Tomlin instead found a shortcut.
For some in Pittsburgh, there’s an understandable feeling that perhaps the last decade of loaded teams led by Roethlisberger should have yielded another title or two. Tomlin has bore some of that burden, even if he was largely shut out over said stretch by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
But now, the true greatness of Tomlin is undeniable. His current charges are nowhere near the talent level of the days of Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, David DeCastro, Maurkice Pouncey and others.
This is a JV squad comparatively, both in talent and age.
And yet here are the Steelers, because here stands Mike Tomlin.