Steelers backwards philosophy doesn't fit with today's NFL

Mike Tomlin has been great in the past, but his football philosophy is outdated.
Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers / Joe Sargent/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers have a rich history of outstanding defenses. After riding the struggle bus in their early days, Chuck Noll came along in 1969. A few years later, the Steel Curtain defense was assembled and the winning culture began shortly after the NFL merger.

All these years later, the winning philosophy has remained the same for the Rooney Family: Play great defense and do enough on offense to carry the team to victory. It pains me to say this, but this is an outdated approach that may never yield the results we once saw.

Following Noll's tenure which lasted all the way to 1990, defensive mastermind Bill Cowher took over, and the philosophy remained the same. After Noll won four Super Bowls, Cowher earned a Lombardi Trophy just a year before his retirement following the 2006 season.

Then it was Mike Tomlin's turn. Early in his tenure as the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Tomlin picked up right where Cowher left off, and he won the Super Bowl in just his second year with the team in 2008. However, since his second Super Bowl appearance in 2010, Tomlin's team has grossly lacked playoff success.

The Steelers are now on a six-year drought without so much as a single playoff win, and after what we've seen from them early in the 2023 season, it looks like they will have to wait even longer to find any sort of postseason success.

If they don't win a playoff game this year, it will be 7 years without a playoff win, 2 playoff appearances in the past 6 years, and only 3 playoff wins in the past 13 years, per Pro Football Reference's database.

Any other head coach in the NFL would lose their job after not producing postseason success for such a drought. However, Tomlin's reputation and the fact that he hasn't had a losing season since becoming a head coach in 2007 make it hard to move on. Whether we want to admit it or not, the Steelers might have a Mike Tomlin problem.

Mike Tomlin's philosophy is not a fit for today's NFL

As good as Mike Tomlin has been in the past, we simply haven't had postseason results in years. The biggest reason might have to do with a philosophy that is not fit for today's NFL.

Defensive-minded head coaches used to be prevalent throughout the league in any given year. However, as the NFL advances to more of an offensive-dominated league, finding an offensive mastermind seems like a necessity.

Coaches like Andy Reid, Kyle Shanahan, Nick Sirianni, and Mike McDaniel are proving to be among the most valuable assets in all of football thanks to the explosive offense and scoring mentality they bring to the table. Many of these teams with offensive-minded head coaches have either made it deep into the playoffs or have won Super Bowls in recent years.

As the game has changed, so have many of the rules in today's NFL -- rules that cater to the offense. However, the Steelers don't seem to be interested in catching up with the times.

Because of the countless years of success, they experienced from Knoll to Cowher to Tomlin, it seems unlikely that the Rooney's will suddenly change philosophies and try to build a team predicated around the offensive side of the football. However, this truly does seem essential for today's NFL.


From what we have witnessed over the past six or seven years, it just doesn't seem like the Steelers will be able to find any playoff success with Mike Tomlin's philosophy. Gone are the days when Pittsburgh could try to get to the Super Bowl scoring 20 points per game and playing great defenses. Offenses today are far too creative to expect that to happen.

Tomlin has been a great head coach and he deserves praise for his past successes, but things have not been going well for the Pittsburgh Steelers where it matters most. Perhaps it's time for a change in the winning philosophy that is required in today's game.

Next. Pittsburgh Steelers head coaches ranked by career wins. Pittsburgh Steelers head coaches ranked by career wins. dark