Mike Tomlin's fate as Steelers head coach intertwined with that of Arthur Smith

The Steelers extended Mike Tomlin's contract but the timing suggests that his fate is intertwined with that of Arthur Smith.
Pittsburgh Steelers v Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers v Atlanta Falcons / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

With the announcement that the Steelers have signed Mike Tomlin to a three-year extension, I could not help but think that Tomlin's fate is now intertwined with that of Arthur Smith, whom we signed to a three-year deal earlier this year.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that we extended Tomlin's contract before the Steelers got into the throes of training camp. I think the extension gives Tomlin the peace of mind to concentrate on making this season memorable for all the right reasons.

The Steelers are sending a message to the NFL, to Arthur Smith, and to Mike Tomlin with the contract extension

Make no mistake, Mike Tomlin's contract extension sends a message to the NFL, to Arthur Smith, and Tomlin himself, in my humble opinion. The message to the NFL is this: we have a great coach who has had consistent (regular) season success and we believe in him. The message to Arthur Smith is this: your fate is inextricably tied to Tomlin's fate.

Finally and more importantly, the message the Steelers are sending to Tomlin is this: we believe in you. You have never had a losing record in the regular season...but we need to see progress concerning success in the playoffs.

What is interesting to me is the fact that a three-year extension puts Tomlin two years shy of matching the twenty-three seasons that Chuck Noll was our head coach. To put this into perspective, I was born the year Noll became our head coach. I grew up watching those incredible teams of the 1970s.

I also endured what I believe was frankly a horrible decade of the 1980s. While we had mostly winning seasons and a few playoff appearances, we did not win the 'big game' as we did four times in the span of six years during the previous decade.

For lack of a better term, it would have been easy for the Steelers to move on from Noll after the playoff loss in 1989, but because he had built up so much equity by that point, I believe we allowed him, and rightfully so, to leave on his own terms.

While this contract extension has that same feel, unlike Noll, Tomlin has not enjoyed the same success in the playoffs as evidenced by the fact that the last time we won the 'big game', a.k.a., the Super Bowl, was after the 2008 season, meaning it has been fifteen seasons since we hoisted the Lombardy Trophy.

Now, we are dealing with the unknown of having a new offensive coordinator, four new quarterbacks, and a new offensive scheme. What could go wrong? Honestly, a lot could go wrong. We may find ourselves talking about Tomlin's first losing season as our head coach.

Conversely, we may find ourselves talking about not only a winning season but a Super Bowl winning season. How great would that be? Obviously, that would be great, but with all the uncertainty surrounding this season, I don't see it happening.

What is certain is this: the fates of Mike Tomlin and Arthur Smith are intertwined. If one succeeds, the other will follow suit; if one falters, the other will falter as a result. If the former transpires, all will be right in the world. If the latter transpires, will the Steelers have second thoughts about extending Tomlin? As with most topics we discuss, only time will tell.