Steelers lucky to have Tomlin as their coach


Dominic DiTommaso

I am a non-Steelers fan trapped in Pittsburgh. Surrounded by friends and family that bleed black and gold, it’s sometimes hard to stand the constant overreaction and overrating every year. But, trust me when I say that I can’t help but have the utmost respect for the Steelers organization.

The Rooney family represents what every owner in sports aspires to be. The consistency and stability are enviable, and their loyal fans have much to be appreciative of. Hey, who can’t appreciate a team with such history and success. Art Rooney’s Pittsburgh Steelers, what a nice ring that has — six to be precise.

Much of the success comes from the men who have patrolled the Steelers’ sideline, a job so prestigious that only three have held it since 1969. Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin, two Hall of Famers and one on his way, have had the distinction of being Pittsburgh’s head football coach, and it appears the best of the three is the current one.

With all due respect to the other great NFL coaches including Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, Pete Carroll, Andy Reid and John Harbaugh, Mike Tomlin is the NFL’s best coach and has been for years. This past week helped prove it.

Since his first year in Pittsburgh in 2007, Mike Tomlin has coached his Steelers to a 148-81 record (.646 winning percentage, good for 18th all-time), two Super Bowl appearances, one Lombardi trophy, and nine playoff visits in his first 14 years. His eight playoff wins are seventh-best among current coaches (he’s coached for less years than all but one of the coaches above him), and his 148 wins are third among current coaches (only Belichick and Reid are above him) and 21st all-time. He has never had a losing season.

Tomlin is always calm, cool and collected during games, and never appears to lose his edge or coaching feel when the pressure mounts. In pre- and post-game press conferences, though, he speaks about his team with such a passion that makes all around him want to go and run for him through the Steel Curtain.

Nobody can command a locker room and lead a team of men like Tomlin can, and nobody can gain more player respect quicker than he does. He doesn’t rely on the ruthless dictatorship that Belichick alienates players with, and he doesn’t resort to the goofy and wacky antics that Reid sometimes does. Tomlin just directs and guides with his fearless leadership and subtle football brilliance.

Tomlin once again gained the respect of Steelers fans everywhere earlier this week when he fervently denied wanting any part of the open USC  and LSU head coaching jobs, passionately proclaiming that he is content in Pittsburgh and wouldn’t leave for any amount of money. “Never say never, but never,” Coach Tomlin pronounced.

How good must it have felt for Steeler Nation to have their to-be-Hall-of-Fame coach blatantly state that he is not leaving Pittsburgh for warmer pastures?

Yet, Tomlin could have easily looked up and realized that he has one, maybe two, years left with the quarterback he has had his entire tenure as coach, Ben Roethlisberger, and waiting in the corner is … Dwayne Haskins, who has proved to be nothing more than a product of the Ohio State talent he was surrounded with in college? Who could blame Tomlin for wanting to go and win national championships, which he would, at USC?

And still, Tomlin wants to stay and coach the team that has stood by him. It is that loyalty and dedication to his team that highlights Tomlin’s greatness, a loyalty and dedication that come even in the face of not-so-subtle adversity.

This season has been the perfect example, when Pittsburgh’s football skies were darker than usual as the team started 1-3 and has since won 3 in a row including a win in Cleveland against the team that humiliated them in the playoffs last year. I still have faith in Tomlin to take his team to yet another winning season and possibly into the playoffs. As I have learned, never bet against Tomlin.

I couldn’t help but wonder if the reason Tomlin’s name was linked to the vacant USC job was because he is one of the few black coaches in this league. Is it possible this is because many are not willing to accept that a black coach can have high success in this league and be an able leader of men?

On the other hand, what a compliment being paid to Tomlin that USC would look to him as their program savior, doing a job that four men haven’t been able to do since Pete Carroll departed. Maybe the reason that USC didn’t mention Sean Payton or Andy Reid, two names that Tomlin brought up in his recent press conference as coaches not being asked about college jobs, is because neither of them are as good at coaching as Tomlin is.

Fortunately for Pittsburgh, Coach T isn’t going anywhere. I believe him when he says there is no blank check big enough that could lure him away from the Steelers. He will be leading the Black and Gold for years to come.

In his press conference, Tomlin dropped the mike, but the Steelers certainly shouldn’t drop this Mike anytime soon.