The good, the bad, and the unknown of the Steelers extending Mike Tomlin

The Steelers keeping their head coach in place isn't a bad move on paper, but there is a lot of grey in the new deal for Mike Tomlin.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers announced a new deal for Head Coach Mike Tomlin, keeping the stalwart leader around through 2027. This move has been met with a wide array of reactions, as most news regarding Tomlin tends to be. Some fans are thrilled to have him around for the next few years. Others are irate.

I’d like to think that I fall somewhere in between on this move. There is a lot of grey area on this contract, and while the sky isn’t falling, I wouldn’t classify this as a homerun either. Here is the good, the bad, and the unknown of the Steelers extending Tomlin.

The good for Steelers

Simply put, Tomlin has a knack for winning. You don’t become one of the longest-tenured coaches in history without doing so. Having already passed Hall of Fame coach Bill Cower, Tomlin is closing in on Chuck Noll as the longest-tenured coach in Steelers history.

I have my core issues with the “never had a losing season” argument, but on a baseline it is impressive. Even notable coaches such as Bill Belichick, Tom Landry, and the aforementioned Noll and Cower went through cold spells. Being able to consistently win in the NFL is hard, but Tomlin has accomplished that.

Finally, Tomlin is very much a player's coach. He constantly grades out from players as one of the most desirable head coaches to play for, and it isn’t uncommon for new additions to the team to cite him as one of the reasons for signing. Tomlin is great at player relations and makes Pittsburgh a desirable spot for free agents despite their contracts being more favorable to the team (typically).

As teams have gotten more and more aggressive with guarantees on huge deals, the Steelers have been mostly stagnant with their deals. That hasn’t stopped them from signing notable free agents though. Just look at Patrick Queen this offseason, who cited Tomlin as a reason to want to sign. His relations with players and track record of winning keeps the Steelers relevant and a desirable place to play.

The bad for Steelers

I noted the consistency as a positive for the Steelers, but I will also list it as a negative. Having a coach in one spot for as long as Tomlin has been in Pittsburgh is rare. Overreacting after one bad season keeps teams in limbo, and Tomlin doesn’t have to deal with that.

However, consistency for the sake of consistency sake is also no good. Tomlin’s recent track record hasn’t been that strong. Sure, he hasn’t had a truly bad season, but for the past ten years most seasons have been middling, and the team has lacked any real playoff success. It feels like eons since the team felt like a legitimate Super Bowl competitor. If that doesn’t change, it is hard to get excited about this hire.

I also find Tomlin to be a stubborn coach at times. While everyone is, he seems to really dig in his heels at times. From keeping Matt Canada far longer than he should have to build an antiquated offense in the hopes of remaining relevant, I have to question what the priorities are at times. This is doubled down in games, as when the initial game plan fails the team rarely adjusts to correct the issues at hand.

Given his seniority, I don’t anticipate most of these issues getting resolved. If this team continues to live in mediocrity, the extension of Tomlin is a dubious decision.

The unknown for Steelers

What will ultimately make or break this deal could come down to the Steelers typical way of firing a coach. The organization is a proud one, and more often than not, they will opt to have a coach retire instead of firing them. We have seen in numerous cases that the coach wasn’t ready to step down.

If this team turns things around and gets back on track, this will be a nonissue. If the same problems remain and the Steelers are a consistent 9-8 type team, that is when this new deal becomes the problem. Would the team actually fire Tomlin? Would he willingly “retire” if he still has a desire to coach?

I’m fine with the deal overall, as you aren’t going to find a lot of coaches like Tomlin in the league. That said, if this team continues to play to a mediocre standard and the Steelers stand by with Tomlin as their leader, then I will have a big issue with the move. A new deal is fine for him, but he needs to be held accountable for the lack of playoff success for this team if that trend continues.

dark. Next. Steelers may already be regretting their biggest mistake from the offseason. Steelers may already be regretting their biggest mistake from the offseason