There are many things Steelers fans like to complain about. The defense. Play selection. Slow starts. The coaches are also often targets of such complaints. Specifically, Mike Tomlin has taken fire for struggling coming out of a bye. But do the numbers back up the claim?
Coming off of the bye week, the Steelers under Coach Tomlin have a record of 7-4. A winning percentage of 0.636 does not scream of ineptitude. In fact, Mike Tomlin‘s regular-season record is 119–62–1, which gives a winning percentage of 0.657. If using this same winning percentage over an 11-game sample, what would be the predicted record?
It would be 7-4.
In other words, Mike’s Tomlin‘s record coming out of the bye is no different from his regular season record. It is exactly what one would expect it to be. It’s almost as if the post bye week games aren’t any different from any other regular season games.
Not every coach can be like Andy Reid and his unprecedented 16–3 record after a regular season bye. Even the great Bill Belichick’s record off the bye is in line with his record. While in New England, Coach Belichick has a regular season record of 219-76. Applying this win percentage of 0.742, the prediction of Belichick‘s record coming out of the bye week would be 13-5, which is exactly what it is.
For comparison sake, Mike Tomlin has a much better win percentage after the bye then his predecessor. Bill Cowher’s record coming out of the bye was 9-7. This record is skewed ever so slightly because of the 1993 season when teams were given two byes. The Steelers won both games following their bye week in Week 5 and Week 9. It is much safer to say that Coach Cowher’s win percentage out of the bye of 0.563 is noticeably less than his career regular-season win percentage of 0.623.
So why do some Steeler fans insist that the Steelers are not successful after the bye week? It could be because of recent history. Of the last four seasons, the Steelers have lost following the bye three times. Before last year‘s five-game winning streak following their Week 9 bye, the Steelers had lost games for three straight seasons after their week off. But as quickly as we are to remember this losing streak, the five straight seasons of picking up a win after the bye week from 2008 to 2013 seem to have been forgotten.
Of the four games the Steelers have lost coming out of the bye under Mike Tomlin, three of them have been by one score. The only exception was a 39–30 loss in Seattle in 2015. Even this game was a one score game until Seattle added another touchdown with 2:01 left in the game.
One last important piece of information: every season a Mike Tomlin coached Steelers team has lost coming out of the bye, the team has gone on to make the playoffs. That’s correct- every season. In 2007, 2014, 2015, and 2016, the Steelers recovered from the loss to still reach the postseason.
If the Steelers manage to pick up the win against the Browns at Heinz Field this Sunday, Mike Tomlin will have twice as many victories coming out of the bye than losses. With the numbers not matching the narrative, fans who feel the need to complain about something will have to quickly move on to the next grumbling point.