3 longest-tenured coaches in Pittsburgh Steelers history

Steelers, Chuck Noll
Steelers, Chuck Noll / George Gojkovich/GettyImages

When you think of the Pittsburgh Steelers, one of the first things that probably comes to your mind is the legacy head coaches they have had. This franchise is unlike any other team in the league in that they have only had three head coaches since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

It wasn't always like that. The Steelers became a professional football team all the way back in 1933, and they had 12 different head coaches from the start of their franchise to (Jap Doubs) until 1968 (Bill Austin).

Since the merger, however, the Rooney family has developed a reputation for championship football, and continuity is key. Part of that means keeping their great head coaches around longer than any team in the league. Here are the three longest-tenured head coaches in Pittsburgh Steelers history.

3. Bill Cowher: 15 years (1992-2006)

Compared to the rest of the league during his era, Bill Cowher was one of the longest-tenured head coaches in the league. However, he comes in just third on the list in terms of longevity among Steelers head coaches.

Cowher took over the franchise in 1992. In the year prior, Pittsburgh finished just 7-9, but he immediately helped boost them to an 11-5 record. Cowher would go on to have 9 seasons of 10-plus wins. This included the famous 15-1 season in Ben Roethlisberger's first year in 2004.

Though he never had the benefit of a high-powered passing attack during his time in Pittsburgh, Cowher still had some impressive defenses that included All-Pro players. The most notable of them all was legendary defensive back, Rod Woodson.

Cowher finally earned his Super Bowl ring following the 2005 season. He would play just one more year before retiring after an 8-8 season in 2006. Cowher's impressive 15-year tenure with the Steelers landed him in the Hall of Fame in the class of 2020.

2. Mike Tomlin: 18 years (2007-present)

I don't know how many Pittsburgh Steelers fans would have predicted that Mike Tomlin's head coaching tenure would last longer than Bill Cowher's but here we are. Tomlin is entering his 17th season, and there's no apparent end in sight.

Most of Tomlin's post-season success came early in his coaching career. It was a tall task to ask a young head coach to fill the shoes of a Super Bowl champion and future Hall of Famer, but Tomlin won a Super Bowl of his own in just his second season as the Steelers head coach. Two years after that, the Steelers appeared in Super Bowl XLV against the Green Bay Packers but were defeated 31-25.

Tomlin has caught a lot of flack in recent years. Over the past 11 seasons, his team has only made it to the AFC Championship Game once. Pittsburgh is also on a six-year drought without a playoff win.

Still, Tomlin has never had a losing season in his NFL head coaching career. After becoming the second-longest tenured head coach in Steelers history, it's going to be hard for a future coach to surpass him on this list someday. Tomlin may be afforded the right to walk away on his own terms, and that may not happen until years down the line.

1. Chuck Noll: 23 years (1969-1991)

The longest-tenured coach in Pittsburgh Steelers history is the great Chuck Noll. After going through 12 different head coaches before the AFL-NFL merger, the Steelers finally found a long-term option in 1969 with Noll.

In his first season, a Noll-led Steelers team had their worst win percentage in franchise history as they finished the season just 1-13. But it's a good thing the Rooney's didn't give up on him right away. It took a total of three consecutive losing seasons before Noll truly started to build a championship roster.

In 1972, he really turned things around for the Steelers as they made it to the conference championship game. Two years later, he won his first Super Bowl, and he would end up winning four Super Bowls in just a six-year span.

Noll didn't have nearly as much success over the final 13 years of his head-coaching career, but he still has arguably the greatest coaching stretch in NFL history. In a team with several legendary head coaches, Chuck Noll is considered by many to be the best of them all. His 23-year tenure is a number that may never be topped by another coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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