The Steelers have missed the playoffs the last two seasons and if they don’t make it there in 2020, it would be the first time they missed the playoffs three straight season since 1998-2000. This is the second time in the Mike Tomlin era the Steelers are on the cusp of not making the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. He is arguably coming off his best coaching performance in 2019 when he played all but 1.5 games without future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger. He was able to silence some of the critics who say he can only win with Big Ben after winning eight games with a combination of Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. The team ultimately collapsed at the end of the season, losing three straight games and missing the playoffs. Heading into his 14th season, could Tomlin be on the proverbial hot seat?
Without a doubt, Tomlin is one of the best coaches in the NFL. However, many say he has underachieved over the last 5-7 years. Three playoff wins since 2014 certainly screams underachiever with the talent the Steelers had assembled. It can be argued the Steelers have had some bad luck over the years in the some of the playoff losses they have suffered. As Mike Tomlin would say. “The Standard is the Standard.” He makes no excuses when it comes to wins and losses.
Personally, the biggest gripe I have with Tomlin is the 2017 divisional round playoff loss to Blake (bleepin’) Bortles. That team, minus the horrific injury to Ryan Shazier who was a tremendous loss for not just the team but the organization, had everything to make a run at number seven. This has been Tomlin’s biggest failure as of late.
Many in Pittsburgh have wanted the Steelers to bring in a new head coach for quite some time now and I couldn’t disagree more. The Steelers are one of a few organization’s who can legitimately say every year their goal is to win the Super Bowl and anything less is a failure. I am not here to defend regular season success because Tomlin has enjoyed plenty of this. The one question I always pose when someone wants Tomlin out is, “who are you going to hire to replace him that is better than him as soon as he sets foot in the door?”
Some change is good, but not all change is good. Tomlin surely has his flaws like all coaches do, but it would be hard to find a new coach better than him. His clock management woes, successful challenge rate, and the one quintessential road loss you never saw coming which happens almost once a year are the biggest complaints of Steelers Nation. Even though all are fair criticisms, it still does not warrant bringing in a new head coach.
There is a new playoff format under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and now there are seven teams in each conference which head to the playoffs. The number one seed is the only seed who receives a bye, making it that much more valuable. Ironically, we would not be having this conversation at all if the new format were already in place. The Steelers would have made the playoffs in 2012, 2013, 2018, and 2019 eliminating the possibility of missing the postseason three straight years in both instances in the Tomlin era.
If the Steelers miss the playoffs again in 2020, it would surely be a disappointment for many reasons, but none big enough for Tomlin to lose his job. Some think he may leave on his own when Ben Roethlisberger retires, but I do not see Tomlin and the Steelers parting ways for quite some time.