I remember a day when I called out Mike Tomlin and said, maybe, maybe the Steelers should move on from the guy. I was riding high on disappointment and the article, while possibly reasonably and logically sound after a loss to the Ravens, was preemptive, regardless. As the winning streak has unraveled, I have gone back on the idea that maybe the Steelers should weigh their options.
Because it is clear Tomlin is not just riding the coattails of Ben Roethlisberger, but the guy himself is a great head coach.
I knew he was great even when I wrote the last article, and I am now calling a mea culpa on, but the difference now is the entire realm of thought has shifted. You see, Mike Tomlin cannot be viewed in a manner like other coaches. He is a rare breed nowadays. A guy who is locker room eccentric first, and maybe football second, but that certainly doesn’t show as he wins out every year. Tomlin is no enigma. He has defined a model of consistency during his tenure as the Steelers Head Coach that can only be rivaled by Bill Belichick in New England.
This season specifically has shown the resilience of Tomlin-led teams. Yes, his teams inexplicably play down to competition and have dropped games they shouldn’t have over the years. Yes, that was debacle last year as the Steelers lost to the Jaguars again. And unfortunately, yes, Brady and Hoodie have had Tomlin’s number.
However, there is a certain coaching trait you simply cannot put a value on — intensity.
Tomlin’s intensity should be no secret to no one. He is a locker room coach and every single player that seemingly comes through those doors loves the guy. That same culture incubates a culture of drama to guys that take advantage of situations like that.
However, Tomlin has proven that his teams CAN overcome drama. But this team, this 2018 team seems different. It isn’t like Tomlin’s previous teams from the years 2013-2017. This team seems like a throwback. Dare I say, in Steelers terms, these guys are acting Cowher-esque?
Gone are the distractions and character questionable players such as Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant. In are the coachable, class-act guys in like James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster. And even with the distractions from Bell and Antonio Brown, especially with this team seemingly coming unglued after that loss to Baltimore, they somehow have stayed focused this year.
That credit, and the reigning in of a situation that could have gotten really ugly real fast, has to go to Mike Tomlin. This locker room is a much more tightly knit unit than teams of the past. There is sense of the mentality that Tomlin has been preaching for a long time. No one is talking bad about anyone anymore. There are no Mike Mitchells are this team in terms of that.
Tomlin’s 2018 Steelers are quite the throwback to that disciplined era. It’s infectious. Look at guys like Antonio Brown, who while being a diva, has tried to keep himself contained since the debacle after the Ravens game.
You have to attribute that to the teacher, and leader of men that Mike Tomlin simply is at heart. The dramatic turn around of this team goes squarely on that man’s shoulders. And with it, he has thrust himself into the Coach of the Year category.
This team has shown more determination and grit than many could ever imagine. That is what the Jaguars simply provided us fans with. A sense that this team might not be like the past teams. They are together and focused, even if they were outplayed badly, they overcame adversity.
But Tomlin’s biggest feat might be the change of the Steelers’ defense. Keith Butler and he deserve a great amount of credit. I know Coach T was has been in on those game plans, just by the nature of who he is, and with him and Butler somehow changing that dismal defense into this, it is amazing to watch.
It seems like for the first time in a long time, this team has made drastic second-half adjustments on both sides of the ball. Look no further than the schematic changes the Steelers made in the second half of the Jaguars game to stall Leonard Fournette in the second half.
It is that, and the locker room change that make Mike Tomlin so darn good. So, I do retract the statement of any “moving on” from Tomlin.
In fact, he might just win Coach of the Year, and deservedly so.