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Breaking down Mike Tomlin’s replay challenges, and just how bad it really has been

Mike Tomlin hasn’t won a challenge in his past nine tries, but is this the same narrative which is told throughout his entire tenure with the Steelers?

NFL: AFC Divisional-Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL implementing new replays rules to include pass interference on plays when a flag is thrown or not thrown, will this be nothing more than opportunities for Mike Tomlin to squander challenges and timeouts?

Pittsburgh Steelers fans sure hope not as they hope that the team’s head coach will quit relying on his gut feeling, and more on his coaches and his own eyes.

Tomlin has been abysmal with his challenges the past three seasons, and four out of the last five. In the past five seasons, Tomlin has succeeded challenging 8 times in 29 attempts. A 27.6% success rate in the span should have fans nervous with up to 50-yard challenges hanging in the balance.

Tomlin’s numbers by year:

2007: 3 of 9 successful

2008: 5 of 6 successful

2009: 2 of 4 successful

2010: 3 of 7 successful

2011: 3 of 6 successful

2012: 4 of 6 successful

2013: 4 of 6 successful

2014: 2 of 6 successful

2015: 4 of 7 successful

2016: 2 of 5 successful

2017: 0 of 4 successful

2018: 0 of 5 successful

Some things get finer with age, but Mike Tomlin’s challenges are not one. After spending much of his career over the 50% mark, Tomlin’s numbers have taken a sharp downturn in recent years.

By down I am referring to total challenges and the number of challenges successfully overturned.

1st: 5 of 12 successful

2nd: 9 of 14 successful

3rd: 16 of 26 successful

4th: 0 of 12 successful

Kickoff: 2 of 4 successful

Second and third down challenges success rate is impressive, but the fourth down conversion number is shocking. One surprising aspect is that half of those fourth down challenges were wasted on punt plays. (Maybe this only surprises me.)

Distance to make a first down. (Excluding the four kickoffs.)

0-5 yards: 8 of 22 successful

6-10 yards: 18 of 36 successful

11+ yards: 4 of 9 successful

Tomlin has never challenged a play over 20 yards. With implementing the new interference rule, that is sure to change.

How does Tomlin compare to five long-tenured peers?

Tomlin: 32 of 71 successful (45.1%)

Bill Belichick: 48 of 117 successful (41%)

Sean Payton: 44 of 103 successful (42.7%)

John Harbaugh: 46 of 99 successful (46.5%)

Jason Garrett: 21 of 41 successful (51.2%)

Ron Rivera: 27 of 54 successful (50%)

Take out the past two seasons — Tomlin would be at the top of the list instead of being around the middle of the road.

Steelers fans are excited to see if Coach Tomlin gets help with deciding whether or not to challenge plays in 2019 from newcomer Teryl Austin or whether the long-time Pittsburgh head coach continues to go with his gut or eyes. With the possibility of huge chunks of yardage now on the table to be challenged, fans can only hope Pittsburgh returns to success they had prior to the past three seasons.

*All stats provided by Pro Football Reference


Will the Steelers boom or bust with instant replays in 2019? Please share your opinions in the comments section below.