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A Letter From the Editor: What to make of Mike Tomlin’s non-losing season streak

Some fans love it, some can’t stand it. Trying to decipher what to make of Mike Tomlin’s ability to keep his team at .500 or above.

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

There are several aspects of the Pittsburgh Steelers which tend to attract attention. The team’s six Super Bowl titles certainly tops the list, and not too far from it would be Mike Tomlin’s streak of non-losing seasons.

When the team was vying for Lombardi trophies, this was almost viewed as a badge of honor. The fact the team’s coach, who was hired in 2007, has never lost more games than he’s won is truly remarkable. But as playoff success has waned, so has the enjoyment in a non-losing season.

Before we go too far down this rabbit hole, it is worth noting the overall success the team has had throughout the 2000s, and that dates before Tomlin took over. This tweet certainly struck a chord with me as I saw the Steelers have the longest current streak without a losing season.

The last time the Steelers had a losing season was the 6-10 2003 season. The same season which resulted in the team being awarded the 11th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. In case you don’t remember, that was the pick which was used to draft some no-name quarterback out of Miami University (OH). I think his name was Roethlisberger, or something like that.

Nonetheless, with Ben Roethlisberger officially retired, everyone is giving their predictions for Tomlin’s streak. Will it continue? Or will the Steelers lose more games than they win for the first time in Tomlin’s tenure?

ESPN predictions for the AFC North show the Steelers finding a way to stay about .500.

Mike Tomlin’s streak without a losing season continues. Though the rest of the division and conference are plowing ahead with big-name signings, the Steelers are holding steady to their draft-and-develop philosophy. That method might not deliver a Super Bowl this season, but with pieces like T.J. Watt, Fitzpatrick, Myles Jack and Najee Harris, Tomlin will keep his team above .500 for the 16th straight season.

Yeah, but that’s the talking heads at ESPN. They don’t really know the Steelers. What about the fans, they have their finger on the pulse of all things Steelers. Do they think this is the year things go south?

The latest SB Nation DraftKings Reacts survey for Steelers fans saw 84% of fans believe Tomlin’s streak will continue through the 2022 season.

Predictions and individual thoughts on whether the streak will continue are great, but I wanted to talk more about the perception of the streak. As stated earlier, it was once something Steelers fans touted proudly.

“Tomlin’s never had a losing season!”

Now, it seems to have lost its luster a bit. Some even suggest it is a celebration of mediocrity. Some have gone to the lengths of calling Tomlin “Mediocre Mike”.

If I’m being honest, I can see both sides of this argument. The fact Tomlin, even with some less than stellar rosters, found a way to at least navigate an 8-8 record is remarkable. At the same time, what are we, the fans, celebrating? Being relevant? Whether you like it or not, the Steelers fan base prides themselves on being at the top of the mountain at season’s end. Not just being in the race.

When you look back at the tweet of every team’s last losing season, and see the next team after the 2003 Steelers as the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs, it should tell you a lot about how difficult it is to win games in the NFL. I believe you can both appreciate what Tomlin has been able to do throughout his time in Pittsburgh, while still desiring more than just a non-losing season.

The 2022 season will be unique in many ways. The first season without Roethlisberger under center, a new style of offense coming in and a defense built to withstand offenses which look more like all-star teams. These waters haven’t been navigated, but I can tell you this...regardless of non-losing record streaks, there isn’t a coach I’d rather have at the helm of this ship at this time.

(Note: The Letter From the Editor feature runs every Sunday during the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason.)