I've Never Been A Bigger Mike Tomlin Fan

Photo Credit: Fred Vulch/Associated Press

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I don't blame the Pittsburgh sports media chalking this season up as just another one where the Steelers failed to win a playoff game.  Or continue to point out that head coach Mike Tomlin's streak of winning seasons does not make up for the lack of Lombardi's in Pittsburgh as of late.  I don't blame them because that's their job.

See, sports talk these days is just saying whatever will generate the most interaction on social media, radio shows, television shows, and podcasts.  Nobody actually fully says what they mean.  Interaction equals dollar signs.  I get it.

However, the continuous piling on of Mike Tomlin is why I'm here to say exactly how I feel.  I have never been a bigger fan of Tomlin than I am after this 2022-23 season.  This isn't for clicks, it really is what I'm feeling right now about the Steelers' future Hall of Fame head coach.

See, outside of Pittsburgh, fans are jealous of Steeler fans for Mike Tomlin.  Aside from maybe Andy Reid in Kansas City or Bill Belichick in New England, other teams' fans would love a guy like Tomlin.  Some may point out Sean McVay, but look what happened when he lost a Hall of Fame QB and an impact player like Cooper Kupp.  Is it so unlike losing Ben Roethlisberger and TJ Watt this season?

And yes, Kyle Shanahan looks to have everything moving in the right direction in San Francisco, but he hasn't won a Super Bowl yet.  Or maybe you'd rather have Sean McDermott from Buffalo?  But are the Bills really that dominant without Josh Allen?  

I've seen all the posts about the lack of postseason success in Pittsburgh.  However, adding context to this season changes the narrative for me.  After losing a Hall of Fame quarterback, some franchises go years without winning seasons again.  It took Tomlin just 8 weeks of football and a bye week to turn the ship around.  

The Steelers started the season 2-6 just to end it 7-2.  That's incredible.  Now, the return of TJ Watt obviously helped, but the Steelers were still starting a rookie QB and had traded away who was supposed to be his 2nd best weapon when the season started.  But the trade of Chase Claypool somehow made the team better and the Steelers fell short of the playoffs on a tie-breaker.  

Given context, this was a great season for the Steelers.  And context matters.  Sure, the goal is always the Super Bowl, but this team did not possess Super Bowl talent just yet.  But in one season, it took a giant step forward.  Especially rookies Kenny Pickett and George Pickens.

Tomlin has developed wide receivers before so he's no stranger to the task.  But developing quarterbacks is an entirely different animal, and something Tomlin had never had to do to this point in his head coaching career.  And we have seen across the league how difficult of a task that can be.  

Countless New York Jets and Cleveland Browns QBs have failed despite being drafted very highly.  The Denver Broncos were struggling so mightily with picking the right QB they made a move of desperation and mortgaged their future for Russell Wilson.  And both the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans may have Super Bowls in the last five seasons if they had the right QB.  So developing a QB and acclimating him into your system has proven time and again to be extremely difficult, but it appears Tomlin has done so with Kenny Pickett.

Pickett took major strides from the bye week on, and it has left many Steeler fans eager to start next season already.  Plus national pundits cannot talk more highly about the development of Pickett this season.  A lot of them are crediting Tomlin.  In fact, from my observation, there is no larger gap in the respect and admiration the national media has for a head coach than his own teams' fans.  

And in the midst of me admiring Tomlin for almost making the postseason in a "rebuilding" year, I stumbled upon this stat:  

All I can say is wow.  This stat speaks for itself, but do you know how many teams would die for this?  We have seen meaningful football for literally Tomlin's entire career.  We have watched just one football game under Mike Tomlin that didn't matter.  That's incredible.  And every single game this season fell under the same category.  

It's time to start respecting this man.  He is objectively one of the best coaches in the NFL today and one of the best coaches in the history of the NFL.  Yes, he should have won a Super Bowl when he had Ben, Bell, and Brown on the same roster.  But if every team won every time they should have, sports really wouldn't be any fun now would they?  Every team and every coach has taken a loss when they should have won.  It doesn't mean they're not great teams or great coaches.  It's just the nature of sport.

It takes a lot to take over a team and continue a winning tradition like Mike Tomlin did.  But it's also just as impressive to build a new team up and have that one win as well.  And given the context of this season, and the giant strides this team took in the latter half of this season, I have never been a bigger fan of Mike Tomlin.