Commentary

Mike Tomlin Is One of the Very Best, and Here is Why

Credit: Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

An NFL Head Coach is like a CEO of a company.  They can delegate every part of the game until bigger decisions are needed to be made and dial in then, all the way down to managing the x’s and o’s of a game. Because of what we see from New England and all of the success they have had in the last 20 years, fairly or unfairly every coach gets compared to Bill Belichick.

Mike Tomlin is often ripped for being too involved at times and or taking too many chances.  His use or misuse of the play clocks in crucial moments, How he handles his challenges… etc.  To be honest, what NFL coach isn’t put under the microscope like that?

What an NFL Head Coach is rarely rewarded for or given any credit for is their handling of the Ego’s on the field… and off. In the age of Social Media, the ego’s are off the scale.  It’s not just the players, but the coaches live and die with what happens on the on field.  Their own careers are nearly as short-lived as the players.  And that goes for the assistants.

This is why, most coaching assistants and head coaches were former players at least at the collegiate level.  The understanding of what it’s like in that locker room and on the field is a must.

Mike Tomlin played at William & Mary and went straight into coaching at the college level.  He started at VMI and has worked his way up including being the defensive coordinator for the Vikings for a season before becoming the head coach of the Steelers in 2007.

All he has done in his career is walk into a successful organization and guide it to the Superbowl twice, winning once. He helped the Steelers organization rebuild as they eliminated all the beloved players and drafting quality replacements.

He manages the coaching staff, while the staff manages the players. He interacts with the players and is commonly known as a players coach.  He manages all the ego’s including the players and his staff.

And not-unlike other companies or organizations, not everyone gets along.  Add in all the Millionaire egos that are on a football field, it can make for a tumultuous situation.

So in the case of Mike Tomlin, you have a guy that is doing all of that and unfortunately then some.  For years it has been reported that Big Ben and his offensive coordinator do not get along.  Todd Haley, has had a history of being difficult as an assistant coach and briefly as a head coach.

Haley grew up in the Industry under his Dad Dick Haley.  He started out here in Pittsburgh as a Ball boy and learned the game as his Dad worked in the front office of the Steelers then the Jets.  He played some, but not collegiately as he played golf in College. He got his start under his father while at the Jets in 1995.  Haley has clashed with nearly every organization he has worked for and every quarterback he has been coach of.  That includes the likes of Great Kurt Warner, Tony Romo, and now Ben Roethlisberger.

On the other side of that coin, Tomlin is blessed to have a talent like Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.  As everyone knows, Big Ben has had a history of his own dramatics.  So enter Tomlin having to deal with these two towering ego’s when it is a fact that as Ben goes this team goes.  It has gotten so bad that Ben has asked for a buffer between he and Haley.

Just after the loss to Patriots, he asked that his QB coach be down on the field as a go between for the two.

Then there was the James Harrison release yesterday, that from the outside looked completely insane.  The fan base basically burnt down social media for 24 hours.  Then the world was let into just what a selfish player James Harrison has been as a teammate for the better part of this season.  And what could be his career, we don’t know.

So let’s consider that Mike Tomlin will likely finish season at 13-3 while dealing with….

  • Ben and Haley issues
  • Players frustrated by Harrison’s attitude(This just came to light)
  • Key injuries of Haden, Brown, Shazier, Gilbert
  • Drug related suspensions of Marcus Gilbert, Bryant(coming off of 1 year suspension)
  • Ben’s horrific start to the season, dramatic meltdown in locker room after loss to Jags questioning his own ability
  • Pre season Hold out of Le’Veon Bell(culminated in slow start while Ben struggled early)
  • Martavis Bryant losing his job to Ju Ju Smith Shuster and voicing his opinion of that in public.
  • Lastly, the pressure that comes with Coaching a successful organization that garners lots of good and as you can see sometimes bad attention.(If I forgot something, add that to the list and it only makes my point stronger)

Those that want to blame this on him because he was part of the process in bringing these players in, that can be a valid arguement.  But he is not the final decision on these draft picks or acquisitions.  He is part of that decision.  It is his job to do what he has to do, once they are in the system. And this year, what he has done is nothing short of pulling rabbits out of his hat week after week.

During his career, We have seen Mike Tomlin never have a losing season even as this organization went through a complete retooling from the previous Superbowl runs.  They have turned over every important position, except for quarterback.  At least not yet as Ben is 36 which likely means that will be coming soon.

We see coaches of other teams in other cities struggle with on and off  field situations that end up in most cases being the team’s undoing. Of course, they likely do not have the talent the Steelers organization has or the front office support that Tomlin is given. But at the end of the day, he is still tasked with doing what is necessary to make it all work.

When we talk about Coach of the year and who deserves it, I think it is high time we put Mike Tomlin’s name in that hat.  It is time that he gets the credit he deserves for managing this hot mess and keeping the train not only on the rails, but likely heading straight towards a clash with the Patriots in the AFC Championship game.  Not to mention what could be another possible Superbowl run.

Regardless of outcome of the season and the fan base’s feelings towards Tomlin, there is no questioning that he is one of the top 2 or 3 coaches in this league.

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