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Mike Tomlin’s one-year contract extension is not an indication he’s on the hot seat

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Some say the one-year contract extension the Steelers gave Mike Tomlin is a clear message that his seat is getting warm. But if that’s true, why give him an extension of any kind?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers Training Camp Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The uneventful (unless you like or dislike grand player entrances) first day of Steelers training camp didn’t come and go on Thursday without some breaking news. That news was the official announcement that the team and head coach Mike Tomlin had agreed on a one-year contract extension through the 2021 season.

“I am very appreciative of this contract extension and opportunity and want to thank Art Rooney II and everyone in the organization for the support in my first 12 seasons,” said Tomlin in a statement released by the team and courtesy of NFL.com. “We have a goal of winning the organization’s seventh Super Bowl championship, and I couldn’t be more excited about this upcoming season."

This one-year extension (with a reported one-year team option in 2022) finally put to bed the speculation as to whether or not the team would be willing to give its head coach a new deal in light of the drama that has been omnipresent in recent years, as well as the failure to make the playoffs in 2018.

Or did it?

If you’re a Tomlin supporter, you may have raised an eye-brow or two, considering it’s been an ongoing Steelers policy to give their head coaches a two-year extension.

If you don’t like Tomlin and have wanted him fired for quite some time, you may have gone off the deep-end upon hearing the news of even one more year of him at the helm and headed straight for the nearest Facebook comments section, where 96.1’s Mikey and Big Bob likely found you and probably made fun of you on their morning show.

However, if you’re a long-time Tomlin critic with a “glass half-full” outlook on life, you may still be holding out hope that this one-year extension is an indication that the head coach’s seat is quite warm, and maybe only one loss against an inferior team away from being on fire—as in “YOU’RE FIRED, COACH!”

I wouldn’t go that far if I were you.

I realize the one-year extension is a bit curious, given the organization’s handling of such business in the past, but if Tomlin’s seat is indeed a bit warmer these days, why give him an extension of any kind? If you’re Art Rooney II and the rest of the Steelers owners, who are largely silent but presumably not totally powerless, and you were unhappy with Tomlin’s recent performance, wouldn’t it be more prudent to wait until at least after the 2019 season to decide on a new deal?

It’s one thing to have two years of job security left. It’s quite another to have just one. And if the organization took a “wait and see” approach heading into the 2020 campaign, that would be a clear message that the powers that be weren’t happy with their veteran head coach.

Three years is a really long time in professional football, particularly in the head coaching profession. Therefore, for the Steelers to give Tomlin an extension through 2021, which just so happens to be when the contract of Ben Roethlisberger will expire—and he’ll presumably retire—to me, speaks volumes.

It’s not likely a coincidence that Tomlin’s current deal runs parallel with that of his quarterback’s. The Steelers are very serious about winning, and they know life without Big Ben is probably not going to be very pleasant. Therefore, if they had any doubts that Tomlin was the man to bring home another title while their quarterback is still playing and producing at a high level, I doubt they’d invest even another year in him right now.

And who’s to say it wasn’t Tomlin who wanted just a one-year extension, knowing life without his most important player is probably going to feel like the pit of misery (dilly, dilly)?

Sure, with that one-year option in 2022, the organization holds the cards, but what if there’s a desire to start over for all involved—including Art II, who may want to go in a different direction with a different quarterback? Conversely, what if the powers that be desired stability at the head coaching position with Roethlisberger retired, and the on-field direction and future of the team now very much up in the air? What if Tomlin actually relished the chance to show the world he can keep the Steelers competitive without Roethlisberger?

At any rate, it’s highly unlikely the Rooney family’s way of showing Tomlin his seat is warm is by giving him another year of seven-figure security to go along with the two he’s already guaranteed (and you can’t forget that team option in 2022).

If the one-year extension is a stern message, it’s a strange one.

Three years is a really long time to invest in a head coach if you don’t really think he’s the man to lead your organization into the immediate future.