A roller-coaster season put the Pittsburgh Steelers to their limit. They experienced embarrassing losses, offensive droughts, and countless outbursts from role players. It was not pretty, but Mike Tomlin survived another year.
The season was unlike previous ones the well-respected leader has faced. He was scrutinized, expelled, and denounced weekly. Analysts believed his decisions were questionable for the first time in his coaching tenure. A playoff berth hushed the noise created by a peculiar season, but it did not erase the scars fans developed over the last five seasons. A loss to the Buffalo Bills ended a nightmare, but the Steelers must revisit before next September.
Can the Steelers guarantee a future with Mike Tomlin at the helm?
Mike Tomlin earned a respected reputation
The tradition of excellence was instilled in the Pittsburgh Steelers decades ago. The franchise has won the Super Bowl six times - ranking second in victories behind the New England Patriots. Each Vince Lombardi trophy represents the men who vowed to adhere to the standards set by Hall of Famer Chuck Knoll.
One of the many Vince Lombardis is because of Mike Tomlin’s efforts in 2008. An impressive finish to the regular season propelled Ben Roethlisberger’s group into the post-season. They relied on a stout defense, a veteran quarterback, and an established leader to finish the job. Super Bowl XLIII helped the defensive-minded mentor climb the coaching ladder. He became the youngest Head Coach (34) to hoist football’s holy grail and has not looked back since.
The message is clear when Coach Tomlin speaks. “The standard is the standard” is a moniker the established Coach has lived by since the beginning of his career. This mentality helped players like Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Ben Roethlisberger take over the AFC North. They established dominance. Their rivals could not keep up.
Multiple factors led to the dismemberment of Pittsburgh’s big three. It forced the Steelers’ front office to enter a rare rebuild. Tomlin’s philosophy was a valuable life lesson for the players in his locker room. When the name plates changed, so did the standard. New faces were unfamiliar with the cost of wearing black and gold. It reflected on the gridiron.
A culture shift did not hinder the Steelers from achieving success. They continued to record average seasons - just enough to escape media headlines. Fans believed the franchise needed time to implement an official rebuild. Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement opened the door to a new offense.
Kenny Pickett quickly became the new saving grace. He struggled to provide the results fans deemed acceptable. A mediocre sophomore year led to changes within the coating staff. Matt Canada was relieved of his offensive coordinator duties. Many believed Mike Tomlin would be next on the chopping block.
Pittsburgh Steelers cannot refute Mike Tomlin’s coaching
A 10-7 regular season record is a successful campaign for most NFL Head Coach. It’s hard to imagine a front office would part ways with a leader who experienced a positive year. Speculation of Mike Tomlin’s final day in Pittsburgh circulated more than the unit’s accomplishments. NFL insider Brooke Pryor asked Tomlin about his status with the team Sunday evening. His response was an exit from the podium. The future seemed bleak for the Steel Curtain, and the result was unsure. It became clear that the moment could not define a fruitful relationship.
News of Tomlin’s status concerning the 2024 season sent Yinz Twitter into a frenzy Tuesday afternoon. NFL insider Mike Garafolo reported that Pittsburgh’s captain planned to return to the gridiron despite spreading rumors. He addressed the media Thursday afternoon. Support from T.J. Watt and George Pickens made the announcement sweeter. Players throughout the franchise expressed interest in playing for Tomlin only because of the example he sets.
Adding more hardware to the trophy case is the focus of the Pittsburgh Steelers front office. They intend to put their franchise in the best position to succeed. That starts with Mike Tomlin’s leadership. There were a plethora of issues surrounding his team this season. He limited excuses and managed to clinch a playoff berth. We expect him to fix lingering issues but cannot ignore his perseverance this year.
Mike Tomlin is entering the final year of his contract and is determined to right the ship. Coaches like Bill Belichik and Mike Vrabel are available, but the franchise already has a legendary captain. The standard will remain the standard until his last day as Head Coach.