Mike Tomlin Safe Even If 2013 Is A Dud

By Jeremy Hritz

There are several coaches that are on the hot seat heading into the fresh 2013 NFL season. From Rex Ryan in New York to Jason Garrett in Dallas, if their respective teams do not improve on their records from last season, they will find themselves in the market for new jobs.

In Pittsburgh, coming off of a disappointing 8-8 season, the expectations are high, despite many considering it a “transition” year. As head coach, Mike Tomlin is expected to prepare the Steelers to return to the postseason. If, however, the Steelers finish 8-8 or worse, what would be the impact on the job security of Tomlin, a coach entering his seventh season with the team?

Looking at the coaching history of the Steelers, the impact wouldn’t be that much at all.

When Bill Cowher was the head coach in Pittsburgh, after stringing together six straight playoff appearances, his teams faltered in the following three seasons, finishing 7-9 in 1998, 6-10 in 1999, and a non-playoff qualifying 9-7 in 2000. Then, after two successful seasons in which the Steelers won 23 regular season games, his 2003 squad finished 6-10, a record that made the drafting of Ben Roethlisberger possible.

Before Cowher, Chuck Noll started his career with the Steelers with three consecutive losing seasons before his teams began to surge and collect Super Bowl trophies in bunches. It wasn’t until after Noll’s 1984 season when the Steelers play declined, as they failed to make the playoffs the next four seasons.

The key with both Noll and Cowher is that their history of winning and postseason appearances afforded them patience from the Steelers organization, which ultimately paid enormous dividends in terms of championship hardware. Imagine if the Steelers would have reacted to Cowher’s 1998 through 2000 stretch by letting him go? No Troy Polamalu, no Roethlisberger, and most importantly, no Lombardi trophy in 2005 (probably not in 2008 either).

Tomlin’s success in his first six seasons cannot be disputed, with four postseason appearances, one Super Bowl victory in two appearances, and a winning percentage of .656. Though his 2012 team did not meet Pittsburgh expectations, there is no reason to believe that this year’s team won’t improve. And even if they don’t, Tomlin’s job security is in excellent condition.

Only 41 years old, Tomlin has the opportunity to put together a career that can hold its own alongside those of Noll and Cowher. And unless losing becomes the new “standard” of Tomlin’s tenure, there is no reason to believe that he is going anywhere anytime soon.

Will Tomlin match the success of Noll’s seventh season and win his second Super Bowl trophy? Or will he go the way of Cowher and miss the playoffs with a record below .500? Whatever the outcome, fans will be watching Tomlin’s seventh year closely to see if 2012 was simply an aberration to the success his teams have achieved.

  • Paul

    This isn’t your father’s Steelers, Tomlin needs to succeed because he has been given the tools to win now. Poor drafts and the lack of a franchise QB hurt Cowher’s record. The Steelers of 2013 have a franchise QB and are well stocked with terrific players. The only thing holding them back would be injuries. Barring that I think the Steelers are in a good position to win the division. If they don’t then Tomlin will have to answer for the failure. Of course it helps when all the seats are sold for the foreseeable future and the TV contracts revenue will be at an all time high.

  • Randy Neff

    I agree Jeremy that Tomlin’s job is safe. He is an excellent coach.

    You kind of lost me a little when you said Ben wouldn’t be here if they fired Cowher. Are you saying that another coach would have turned the team around and thus the Steelers wouldn’t have the opportunity to draft Ben ? Because Cowher didn’t want to draft Ben, Dan Rooney had to step in and tell him we’re taking the quarterback.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    That has not been how the Steelers have operated in the past and I feel that it will be the same way they will operate at least in the short time future. Tomlin has a established track record and as long as the team competes and the team buys into what he is doing he will be here. I do not see either thing happening.

  • Steves

    Cower was never fired,, he called it quits. Ben fell into our lap and we were rather glad of that. If my memory serves me correctly, all the draft boards were saying Philip Rivers would be drafted by the Steelers at that time. Sure glad we didn’t get that knucklehead, Ben is much better.

  • Dom

    Rivers was gone when we got ben

  • dgh57

    No need to worry about any dud for 2013! On paper at least we have improved the team going forward.

    I’m sticking with the fact that since 2001 we have always bounced back the following year after missing the playoffs. Until that trend is broken and is in the books I see us doing just that, bouncing back!

  • Trey Brooks

    Cowher lost 4 afc championship games. Tomlin is 2-0 in those games with the same amount of superbowl wins as cowher in less time. Plus the steelers have had only three coaches in 43 years. No one is getting fired anytime soon.

  • Paul

    Yep, Cowher wanted to draft a tackle, Rooney wanted Ben.

  • Steves

    That is correct!

  • 2443scott

    league changes and players change teams so much now a days it is hard to keep guys like back when noll was in league even cowhers teams had more chances of keeping their team together tomlin has more challenges in that he has to deal with the way the cba is and loseing players and steelers have been rock steady on head coaching. i think the new coaching changeing will help a stale coaching staff because off/def change so much year to year now so new ideas or tweaks on old ones helps everyone ..but i know this league is its pass pass pass i rather see the steelers run run pass run and pass eat the clock up so those passing teams do not have the time to pass their way to wins but sit on side line watching clock run out

  • Luke Shabro

    Great points Jeremy. The only instance I could see Tomlin being even close to jeopardy is a 4-5 win season which lets get real is not going to happen. I feel like we could win 6 games with Gradkowski at the helm. National media sometimes seems to think the Steelers are going to act with the same kind of impatience that other teams/owners often do. The Rooneys demand excellence but they aren’t like Al Davis or Jerry Jones. There’s a clear plan and vision.

  • Sal

    Cowher always lacked the long term vision to draft a franchise QB, just like his pupil Ken Wisenhunt, which is why he’s no longer a head coach

  • Sal

    Rivers wasn’t gonna be there at 11 anyways. The Giants-Chargers trade was a gimme and I am glad it was, Ben is elite, Rivers is a middle of the pack QB.

  • Brendon Glad

    Tomlin can and should be safe. I just wish and hope he’ll improve in some things…and things that seem like very easy improvements…yet he refuses to make out of stubbornness.
    A) Replay challenges that make one wonder “Who the heck is up in the box watching the monitor?…ANYONE?”
    B) Very few, if any, changes to a medical and training staff and program which has completely failed for the last 2 seasons in my opinion. To me, an NFL training and medical staff is not to be judged on the NUMBER of injuries…but rather what KIND of injuries are they…and how are they handled? You throw out concussions, ligament and tendon tears, separated shoulders, broken bones, and a few others and call that “part of the game” But what about the others? Some teams have a bunch… And some do not. And the Steelers DEFINITELY fall in the Former, not the latter, especially in the last 2-3 seasons.
    Case in point…Woodley’s hamstring. Harrison’s knee, McFadden’s groin, Kiesel’s groin and hamstring during several seasons. Polamalu’s calf and achilles….
    1) Why did Harrison, with a known knee injury, not get scoped until late July?
    2) Why did Polamalu, Kiesel, McFadden, and Woodley “strain” muscles…only to officially “pull” them later in the same seasons over the last few seasons?
    Those things bother a fan like me. And the fact that I’ve seen no reports of anything changing, bothers me considerably.
    We used to call it a fluke that every time Troy Polamalu trains in Southern Cali and doesn’t participate in the Steelers offseason program, he has a healthy season…and when he stays in Pittsburgh for the Spring he gets hurt. Well, he’s played 10+ seasons now. So is it still a fluke? Or a trend? And we also have Ike Taylor and Ryan Clark as some notables who prefer to train somewhere else. And they have been 2 of the most durable.
    So, I’d love to hear the counter-argument to mine…cuz I’d rather be wrong. Unfortunately, I don’t think I am.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    You nailed it. Only true issues I see are within coaching staffs (schemes and developments) and lack of adaption. Early cowher era and late Noll’s era has a lot to do with lack of talents and really horrible drafts. We had one within Tomlin’s era (2008) and the 2009 class is turning to be a horrible one (or as it seem) but had some really good draft classes as of late, especially 2010. Myonly question is whether Tomlin will adapts in future toward his personnels and coaching staffs or will he Cowherize himself and give us consecutive below-standard seasons. We also have made some really horrible financial decisions so I wouldn’t say if our season falter and its all on Tomlin; its on Kevin Colbert too.

    Not that I’m concerned anyway, I’m confident in our team.

  • Steves

    You have some good points. I remember one year Tomlin was having his team in full pads during the week and they were worn out game time. He learned not to be this way and is learning more.

    Steelers use to train on the North Side. I remember them running up Federal Street Extension when they played at Three Rivers. This is no easy feat but back they trained as a team.

    I believe you are correct that some of the Steelers pain can be alleviated with taking care if their body’s in pre game working out.

    Have been to a few games where they stand around shooting the bull and throwing a few balls around. The training staff needs to get them working out so that they can alleviate problems.

  • Brendon Glad

    Thanks. I can’t really say I have a solution to it…it’s a little out of my element of knowledge. I just would have been encouraged if I had seen indications that they AT LEAST recognize the things I mentioned above as definite issues.
    Sometimes it seems like Tomlin takes too “cavalier” of an approach to injuries…as in, “that’s the NFL…next man up”. That sounds good and all, on the unpreventable ones…but the ones I listed above, to me, were definite “drops of the ball” by someone, or multiple people on the training and medical staff…not just on the players themselves.

  • Brendon Glad

    Thanks. I’m not that concerned either. Heck I only picked at Tomlin on 2 things. In general, I really like him a lot as the Steelers coach. He delivers the Steeler-Mantra perfectly, is not afraid to make coaching changes, seems to be good at listening to ideas by his coaches…the players seem to like playing for him.
    BUT the 2013 season was one of the most miserable, depressing seasons I ever remember. And it was all about the injuries…alot of it was bad luck…but the preventable ones just made it far worse, emotionally. One after another, after another…I think only 3 or 4 of the 22 starters made it through the 16 game season…and many were extended injuries…or potentially career-damaging. YUCK!!!
    And when Heath finally went down…I broke my remote and turned off the game. I couldn’t take anymore. So anything we as a Nation can do to make THAT kind of depressing season never happen again, is something for us to definitely attempt to add our small part to 🙂

  • Brendon Glad

    I see no indications of a potential change needing to be discussed. We’ll know it if we see it. It’ll look something like 2009, but without the 3 game winning streak at the end. THAT would be alarming, stunning, and it’s not going to happen in 2013. I think they will be better than advertised.
    The Steelers were the best team in the NFL in 2013, in my opinion. All the pieces in place to go to the Super Bowl. And it was absolutely obliterated by the injuries.
    I know, Steelers Nation prides itself on not making excuses. And if you read my post below, you will see that I’m not making excuses either. I think it’s an issue in need of addressing.
    I only mentioned that to explain why I really think the Steelers will contend for the Super Bowl in 2013….if they can be AT LEAST KIND OF healthy for the bulk of it.

  • Jack Foster

    Brendon –

    I read all the Nation posts and blogs and this is the first I’ve ever commented, because as our fellow fan, Alexander, said you Hit The Nail square on the head…the Steelers Medical / Training staff methods have got to be examined. IMHO I think that’s the only real issue we’ve had: stopping preventable injuries. Yes – every team has injuries, but the Steelers have an over abundance of them in the last few seasons, and I hear nothing about addressing it – except I believe Rooney did reference it once this summer. The RB rotation wasn’t ideal, but if the OL stayed healthy, the run game would’ve been much stronger along with an even better “old & slow” D (that remains ranked #1&2 the past few seasons) with a healthy Woodly, Harrison, Polamalu, Clark, and Taylor for more games. There’s no question we have a SB contending team this year, but we have for the past few. The Tebow debacle in 2011 was painful to watch, but our starting roster limped into Denver w/o a Ryan Clark.

  • Jack Foster

    Here’s a PG article that covers Rooney’s and Ryan Clark’s thoughts on the Steelers rash of injuries:

    “The Steelers lost 78 starts to injuries in 2012, and those might have helped drag down their record to 8-8. Steelers president Art Rooney II declared afterward that they needed to investigate why they had so many injuries and what they can do to prevent them.

    “I think we do have to look at everything we are doing,” Rooney said in January. “And we will look at everything we are doing from a training and conditioning side of things and a practice side of things and see if there are things we can do to get better.”
    They employed some different tactics this spring. Players now are required to warm up more intently and for a longer period before practice, and the team has given each player a stress test.

    Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sports/steelers/injuries-scarce-as-minicamp-comes-to-early-conclusion-691636/#ixzz2Ye91G653

  • Jazz

    You know, when I first read that story, I couldn’t believe it, but it was true. Cowher didn’t want to Draft Big Ben, he wanted Philip Rivers instead. When Rivers went to San Diego, Cowher wanted to take an Offensive L or Defensive L instead. Everybody on this Board Praises Bill Cowher as though he was a God. Are you kidding me? Give me a break! Tom Donahoe, the previous Director of Football Operations for the Steelers, credit him with most of those great drafts they had. Yes, they had a few duds, each team in the NFL has them as well. Under Bill Cowher, his Teams lost 4 AFC Championship Games at home. Reason being? He was too predictable, that’s right, I said it. He was too predictable. Too many times he was out-coached in the Big Games. Bill Cowher was a great motivator, but when it came to X’s and O’s, he was nothing like Chuck Noll. Even his Peers went on record many times stating how predictable he actually was. However, I will give Cowher credit for this – he had a great deal of success without a true Franchise QB, Kudo’s to him for that.Tomlin? The jury is still out on him; I think bringing in Todd Haley is just what the Dr. ordered because Big Ben needed some discipline. They lost three games in 2012 due to his poor play. And lets stop blaming the O/L for everything. Look back in 2011 and 2012; both times Roethlisburger went down to injury, he held onto the ball too long, took a sack, and was never the same afterwards. And if you go back, look closely at both of those games; 11/27/2011 against Kansas City, Roethlisburger takes a sack when he had an open receiver, looked him off, scrambled, sacked, was never the same. 11/25/2012 against Cleveland, almost the same identical thing, he holds onto the ball, takes a sack and was never the same afterwards. This is my knock on Tomlin, he appears to be too friendly with his Players, at least that’s the perception I have. I would like to see him hold Big Ben more accountable for his actions. Not to say he doesn’t, it just doesn’t appear to be that way. The team has a lot of young and upcoming talent. I’m sick of #7 always looking to make a splash play. Just Take What The Damm Defense Gives You! You don’t have to scramble just to be scrambling. That’s why he doesn’t get the glory of being a Premiere QB. And when you really think about it, he has all the tools and attributes just like Tom Brady.

  • Mr. Riggs

    Brendon, I really like what your saying about Tomlin and the Medical staff. All this time I thought I was overreacting or just plain stupid for thinking this way. Everytime I mentioned it on other blogs and threads, i’d get ignored, not that I need attention :)……..well said!

  • Brendon Glad

    Thank you, Jack. This is my favorite site, so any compliments I appreciate a lot. All we can do is try to help in our own little way when we notice something, and hope someone sees it and at least ponders on it. Thanks again. Go Steelers! And hurry up August. I’m ready to go!

  • John Phillips

    The only problem is Noll and Cowher were much better coaches.