Is Steelers Coach Tomlin early coach of the year favorite?


It’s a little early to be calling this kind of thing. But it’s never too early to start thinking about it. It’s being said, and for good reason, that Coach Mike Tomlin is a strong early contender for coach of the year. The Steelers have had to overcome a lot of obstacles this season and they’re still a strong playoff contender.

The results speak for themselves. When a team is dealt a bad hand and overcomes it, it’s all about attitude and focus, and that all comes down to the head coach.

Peter Schrager of is leading the charge in terms of Tomlin for COY, he said a couple days ago, “Tomlin’s had better Steelers teams. There may be more coaches out there who are credited for their mastery of the X’s and O’s. But Tomlin wins. And with the obstacles thrown his way this year, he’s found a way to overcome perhaps better than any other coach in football could. Tomlin trusts his team when others may scratch their heads and doubt.”

Really, it’s hard enough just to get to 4-2 in and of itself. But the Steelers have done it while overcoming a number of issues that could have broken teams with lesser leadership. Let’s count all the reasons the Steelers should not be 4-2.


The Steelers have the toughest schedule in league this year. I remember after last season the pundits were saying the Steelers were obviously going to be back in the playoffs next year (this year). Their offense is incredible and their defense would get a year to improve.

But then the schedule came out. The Steelers had such a hard schedule that a lot of pundits changed their tune. Some even said the Steelers weren’t going to make the playoffs.

Cut to 6 weeks into the season and the Steelers have somehow put together 4 wins in a stretch of 6 games where they faced tough competition without impact players like Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Martavis Bryant, Ryan Shazier, and Will Allen for multiple games. It’s only going to get easier from here.


The Steelers have a dominant offense, that’s the one strength everyone can agree on. But for much of the year thus far the Steelers have been without two of their best players on offense.

Le’Veon Bell is widely regarded as the best running back in the league but for the first two games the Steelers had to get by without him. After two games the Steelers still had the top running back in the league in terms of yards. But that running back was 32 year old first time Steeler DeAngelo Williams.

Then WR Martavis Bryant after his breakout year missed 4 games due to suspension and another 1 on top of that from injury. We saw last week what we were missing with Bryant out. The Steelers were still able to put together a great passing offense by utilizing none other than Darius Heyward-Bey.


The Steelers are now on their 4th kicker. Shaun Suisham, longtime Steelers stalwart and master of the treacherous winds of Heinz Field went down with a torn ACL. It was sad to see for such a great and reliable Steeler. So the Steelers moved on to Garrett Hartley. He didn’t even make it out of the preseason. He injured his hamstring and hasn’t been seen since.

The Steelers were so desperate that they traded a draft pick for Josh Scobee. That didn’t work out very well. Scobee was a veteran, reliable throughout his career. It just didn’t translate. He was started missing in the preseason and kept on missing until he was fired. Josh Scobee was Josh NoThree. He couldn’t even be counted on to make extra points. If not for Scobee the Steelers could easily be undefeated.

So now the Steelers are working with Chris Boswell. Boswell was the AFC special teams player of the week last week and he’s off to an excellent start in his first few games in the NFL. Problem solved, took a while though.

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The Steelers defense was pretty bad last year. It was the worst it’s been in years, maybe in my lifetime. And during this preseason it looked like it was going to be even worse. The secondary was so bad that it was almost a certainty that if the quarterback was able to get the ball past the line of scrimmage it would be a completion.

Fast forward to just before week 7 and the Steelers have one of the top scoring defenses in the league. They have the fifth ranked scoring defense in the league. It’s been described, over and over and over again, as a bend but don’t break style. It’s described that way to the point that it’s a cliché for a reason. It’s true.

The Steelers give up a good amount of yards, or a bad amount technically. But points decide a game and they don’t give those up much and that’s what matters. They’ve done it with injuries, with youth, with a new defensive coordinator, and with a pretty bad secondary.

Essentially, the Steelers have recognized that if they play conservative their secondary is just not good enough to either contest passes or often to even tackle the pass catcher. So if playing conservative guarantees failure than taking a risk is no risk at all. Blitzes, interceptions, sacks, all the “splash plays” are up.

To score, an offense needs to get 10 yards several times. The defense only needs to stop them once. In that way, there’s more room for error on the defense. The Steelers are taking advantage of that. They’ve turned a weakness into a strength.


This is the big one. The Steelers have had lots of injuries. The biggest one is obviously Big Ben going down. The Steelers have somehow managed to win most of the games without Ben in the line up. They won with Mike Vick as their quarterback. Mike Vick was not able to play with this offense and quite frankly, it was a mistake to sign him.

During Vick’s tenure, Antonio Brown was essentially a non factor. The offense really couldn’t make anything happen. Then Landry Jones, who many were rooting against in keeping his job this offseason comes and plays the game of his life. It’s been pretty incredible.

Ben is just the biggest, most important injury; there have been a number of other ones that have impacted the team. Ryan Shazier had a great start to the season but didn’t even finish the best game of his young career and has been out for four games.

Will Allen has missed some games too and he is the leader of the secondary. He gets everyone in place and makes the reads. He’s also a very reliable tackler. Maurkice Pouncey is perhaps the top center in the NFL and he will likely miss most or all of the season and the Steelers are still doing solid.

Jarvis Jones has missed a game. Kelvin Beachum will probably miss the rest of the season. Cortez Allen has missed multiple games. Matt Spaeth has dealt with injury. Stephon Tuitt is about to miss a game too.

The Steelers have had to cycle in and out multiple players, stars and roleplayers. And they still are somehow playing consistently and finding a way to win.


Mike Tomlin is doing an impressive job. He’s been dealt a bad hand, in a lot of ways, but wins are what the game is all about and he keeps finding ways to do it. They’re really living up to that “standard is the standard” mentality that Tomlin has often preached.

Tomlin’s an interesting coach. He’s steady as a rock. Hence his Tomlinisms. The job of a head coach, first and foremost, is to set the mentality of the football team. His job is to lead by example and dictate that attitude of the team. It’s undeniable that the Steelers have taken a lot of blows but their confidence and focus have not been shaken, and credit for that goes directly to Mike Tomlin.

If when Ben comes back the Steelers perform like we could reasonably expect them to perform and make the playoffs, then Tomlin as a strong candidate for coach of the year is a no brainer.

Next: Steelers Week 7: What to watch

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