Steelers’ Mike Tomlin extension won’t shut up those who want him gone, but it should

first_imgWhy hasn’t he done better recently in the playoffs with “all that talent”? Well, if all that talent was on the field when it counted, that might be worth discussing.Le’Veon Bell missed the playoffs in 2014 and 2015 and most of the elimination game in 2016. Antonio Brown also was missing from the road playoff loss to Denver in 2015. After Ryan Shazier’s devastating injury in late 2017, the player who replaced him watched most of that season on TV. Should the Steelers have won some of those games, anyway? Maybe, but winning with Ben Tate, Fitz Toussaint, Sammie Coates and Sean Spence would have involved some massive upsets.It would be a much greater surprise if this contract extension were to quiet the Tomlin-must-go crowd. That so many who follow the Steelers don’t understand and appreciate what has made their team great, though, is the biggest shocker of all. There is nothing problematic about criticizing Tomlin. His recent record in replay challenges is abysmal, and his persistent refusal to add or assign a staff member — until now, with the addition of former Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin — to specialize in assisting on reviews was absurd. Regardless of how one does the accounting, there have been too many defeats against mediocre or poor teams, because more than a couple is a lot. Their record when they stray too far from home — say, to the Mountain or Pacific time zones — is horrible.What Tomlin does better than almost anyone, though, is convince his players to believe in each other and believe in him. The Steelers successfully have fought through adversity because of this, sometimes to their own detriment. (Would you rather be 8-8 and out of the playoffs or 4-12 and selecting third in the draft?) Even with last season’s disappointment, the Steelers losing three of their final five games and missing the playoffs, Tomlin’s teams are 40-17 in regular season games played after Dec. 1. That’s better than 70 percent. His teams get better.MORE: Steelers crack top five in uniform rankings So adding another year to Tomlin’s deal shuts that down. What the extension will not do is end the debate about whether it was warranted, largely because many in Steeler Nation seem not to understand their own history.MORE: Ranking Steelers’ potential Hall of FamersSince the NFL and AFL merged in 1970, the Steelers have employed three men as head coaches: Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Tomlin. Presuming Tomlin works to the end of his contract as it now stands, they will have had three coaches in 51 years, an average of 17 years per coach. Each of those three gentlemen won at least one Super Bowl. Each posted a winning percentage above .550. There has been nothing like this in modern professional sports.What has this degree of stability produced?Six Super Bowl championships, more than any other franchise save for the Patriots, who achieved their six titles thanks to the magical duo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.22 division championships, more than any other franchise in this period.34 playoff wins, matched only by the Cowboys.More victories than any other team in the NFL — by a wide margin.Since 1970, the Steelers have won 502 games. The closest to that figure, again, is Dallas, which is 24 victories behind. The Patriots’ magnificent surge in the Belichick/Brady era has gotten them to 470.This is a franchise for which process is working, and yet not without resistance from a sizable portion of its fan base.MORE: Ranking the NFL’s best rivalries in 2019It is hard to imagine the level of criticism Tomlin has faced in his 12 seasons as Steelers coach, and altogether impossible to justify. We are talking about a coach who has never produced a losing season, who has a superior career winning percentage to each of his predecessors (Noll .566, Cowher .623, Tomlin .654).We’re talking, in fact, about the coach with the 10th best winning percentage in the league’s history among those who worked at least 10 years. It’s John Madden and Vince Lombardi at the top, Belichick, Don Shula and Paul Brown at sixth, seventh and eighth, and Tomlin at No. 10.Look at those names for a second. Was anyone shouting on Twitter that Don Shula needed to earn a contract extension from the Dolphins?Oh, right. There was no Twitter when he coached. That is another difference regarding what Tomlin faces each day. The opinions of his detractors are crystallized and amplified, and because of the compact nature of the medium, they are presented without nuance.center_img It seems like the simplest of transactions, worthy of no more than the single line of tiny agate type it would have received a few decades ago on the scoreboard pages of America’s newspapers. In the modern media environment, though, the agreement by the Steelers and coach Mike Tomlin on a one-year contract extension is considerably different.With 24-hour sports talk a thing now, the question of whether Tomlin would be extended in the typical Steelers time frame — two years left; time to get it done — has been a frequent topic of debate on four different stations in the city. It has also been discussed by beat writers and columnists for five different outlets that either publish as newspapers or are online-only.last_img

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