The 2022 season is destined to be a revealing season for Mike Tomlin. For the first time in his illustrious career, Tomlin will be without the services of Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers franchise quarterback for the past 18 seasons.
I know what you are thinking, “Didn't Roethlisberger miss the majority of the 2019 season?” Yes he did, and Tomlin and company did a masterful job of keeping the Steelers relevant and in playoff contention until the final game of the season. Kevin Colbert made a career defining move of his own by trading for All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick not long after Roethlisberger was lost for the season due to injury.
That singular move catapulted the Steelers defense towards being the best unit in the NFL, and allowed the Steelers to remain competitive even with one of the worst offenses in the league. No way that the Steelers would have had a successful season in 2019 without the acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick. Yes, I consider that 8-8 season a success for Tomlin and the Steelers, especially when taking that atrocious offense into consideration.
Now, for the first time in his illustrious career, Tomlin will be without the supportive services of Ben Roethlisberger and Kevin Colbert. The 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers are Mike Tomlin's team, now more than ever before. I keep hearing fans discussing who will become the next face of the franchise now that Roethlisberger has retired, and I find it fascinating.
Mike Tomlin is the face of the franchise, make no mistake about it.
If you question that opinion, you must not be paying attention to the national sports media and numerous podcasts. Mike Tomlin is virtually everywhere. Like a movie star making the rounds on every late night talk show promoting their next feature film, Tomlin seems to be campaigning for the Pittsburgh Steelers. As if to assure the Steelers faithful and football fans across the world that although Roethlisberger is gone, the Steelers have every intention of remaining relevant and competing for the AFC North division.
One thing is for certain, Mike Tomlin is an individual comfortable in his own skin. He has grown so much in his Steelers tenure, both as a person and a coach. He still has the ability to utilize a ridiculous amount of words to convey very little necessary information, but we get actual glimpses into the inter sanctum of the man with far greater frequency.
Tomlin was still a relatively young man by head coaching standards when he assumed the mantle with the Steeler in 2007. It was his first rodeo, as far as being the man in charge was concerned. He made some mistakes associated with youth, such as poor time management and challenge flag decisions.
Some mistakes were the byproduct of the intense competitiveness of youth. Moments which stand out would be the "standing too close to the sidelines" moment caught on tape against the Ravens, or the infamous "Unleash Hell" statement meant to motivate the troops, but failed to inspire. I don't think those incidents even occur with the more experienced version of the man.
Tomlin displays the countenance and confidence of a man secure in his career and legacy. He works for the most stable franchise in the sport. Three head coaches in over 50 years. The Steelers organization simply doesn't make spur of the moment, knee jerk reactions. Even if Tomlin's team struggles in his first real season sans Big Ben, the Rooneys will not overreact to the situation, just like they didn't when Bill Cowher's teams struggled on occasion.
Tomlin has unique job security, so his cool and calm demeanor doesn't surprise me in the slightest, but one aspect of the situation is extremely intriguing in my opinion.
Tomlin has the perfect opportunity to silence even his most passionate critics, and extend his own NFL record setting statistic. Tomlin already has the record for the most non-losing seasons as a head coach to begin a NFL career, at 15 seasons and counting.
I feel certain Tomlin would like nothing more than to extend that record this season, considering that Ben Roethlisberger never had a losing season in his own illustrious career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have a legacy of winning, but Tomlin has the opportunity to create a legacy all his own.
If Mike Tomlin is able to guide this extremely young roster to a successful season in 2022, then he will strengthen his already Hall of Fame worthy resume. If the Steelers can exceed expectations, and actually win the AFC North division, maybe even a playoff game or two, Tomlin will achieve living legend status.
He would finally silence the critics that insist that the Steelers have accepted a standard of mediocrity for embracing and acknowledging the non-losing seasons streak.
Tomlin and the Steelers need to experience some playoff victories to get back to their winning ways.