Steelers could have had the perfect answer for John Harbaugh if Mike Tomlin left

Steelers, Jim Harbaugh
Steelers, Jim Harbaugh / Michael Hickey/GettyImages

Black Monday came in the NFL and several big head coaching names will now be looking for work in 2024. The Atlanta Falcons fired Arthur Smith, while Ron Rivera's tenure with the Washington Commanders has ended. Though there will be plenty of teams in need of new head coaches next season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are not one of them.

Mike Tomlin is under contract for the 2024 season, and after rallying back from a three-game losing streak in December that seemed to be the final nail in the coffin, Tomlin found himself in the playoffs (only to be one-and-done against the Bills).

Still, despite earning his 17th straight season without a losing record, the fanbase is split on whether or not Tomlin should return. Recently, the Steelers head coach put speculation to rest when he insisted that he would return for the 2024 season. This was confirmed one day later by both Tomlin and team president Art Rooney II.

Tomlin has established himself as a perennial competitor, but after going seven straight seasons without a playoff win (just 3 postseason wins in the last 13 years), shouldn't this decision be up to ownership and the front office?

Let's pretend for a minute that Art Rooney II and the front office have decided to get a fresh start. If they are open to this, the head coaching carousel is hot right now, and we have the perfect candidate for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Jim Harbaugh reportedly wants to return to the NFL

Question: what's better than one 'Harbaugh' head coach in the NFL? The answer is two. Since leaving the National Football League and going back to coaching college ball, Jim Harbaugh has had a remarkable run with the Michigan Wolverines over the past nine years.

In his final two seasons, Harbaugh's team managed to go 28-1, which included a perfect 15-0 season in 2023 that was capped off with a National Championship this year. Though it doesn't seem like the dominant college football head coach would want to be anywhere else, that might not be the case.

According to a recent report from NFL Insider Jordan Schultz, Jim Harbaugh has made it 'very clear' that he wishes to go back to the NFL.

This is a bit of a shock, considering the success Harbaugh has found at the collegiate level. Schultz also reports that the Raiders, Chargers, and Commanders (as well as a few potential others) have already expressed interest in acquiring Harbaugh as their head coach.

If Harbaugh does leave college football, he instantly becomes one of the top head coaching candidates in the NFL. Could that window line up just right for the Pittsburgh Steelers to go from one brilliant defensive mind at HC to the next?

Probably not... but let's explore this hypothetical scenario anyway.

Jim Harbaugh would be the kryptonite to John Harbaugh in the AFC North

Baltimore Ravens head coach, John Harbaugh, has been a thorn in the side of the Pittsburgh Steelers since entering the AFC North way back in 2008 (the year after Mike Tomlin signed on to be the head coach in Pittsburgh). During his 16-year tenure, John has managed an impressive record of 160-99.

Over the past five years, Harbaugh's win percentage has been significantly better than Tomlin's. That includes an impressive 13-4 season in 2023 (their fourth loss came when the Ravens rested their starters after already earning a first-round bye in the playoffs).

That's where little brother Jim comes in. (I say little, but Jim is just one year younger than John and he turned 60 years old before Christmas). Regardless, Jim has a resume of his own as an NFL head coach.

From 2011 to 2014, Jim Harbaugh was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers before electing to coach college ball. During this span, he recorded a remarkable record of 44-19-1, per Pro Football Reference. Miraculously, this included three appearances in the NFC Championship Game in addition to one Super Bowl appearance.

Ironically, that Super Bowl showing was the famous 'Harbaugh Bowl' in which Jim's 49ers fell to John's Ravens with a final score of 34-31. Now is the time for little brother to get his revenge.

Why Jim Harbaugh is a fit with the Pittsburgh Steelers

Over the past six years, the Ravens have averaged 11 wins per season. During the same span, Mike Tomlin's Steelers have plateaued -- averaging 9.5 wins per year. Meanwhile, Jim Harbaugh has a significantly better win percentage as an NFL head coach (69.5 percent) than Tomlin or his brother.

If Tomlin walked away, history shows us that the Rooney's are likely to go with a young defensive mind as their next head coach who they hope could lead their team for the next decade-plus. At age 60, Harbaugh is no spring chicken, but he's as energetic as any NFL head coach and he already has some excellent connections to assemble a great staff. His resume speaks for itself.

Considering everything we know about Jim from both his NFL and college coaching days, there's a very good chance that he will prove himself as a remarkable coach once more. The Steelers have zero intentions of moving on from Mike Tomlin and Tomlin doesn't want to go.

If things were to change, Jim Harbaugh would be the perfect fit in Pittsburgh. The Steelers would have to act fast though. Harbaugh has already interviewed with the Atlanta Falcons and more opportunities will be on the way.