It’s difficult to consistently slam the table about a certain issue and know that it’s just wasted breath blown into the ether. That’s what the conversation about Mike Tomlin has become. It’s as close to pointless of a conversation to even have because no matter what side of the aisle you stand on, the overwhelming majority of us can agree that he will be the man under the headset in 2024. And 2025. And 2026. And so forth.
Let me also say that I don’t enjoy wanting to see someone replace Tomlin. It isn’t fun or easy calling for someone to have to lose their job. Unfortunately, though, it’s what needs to happen if the Steelers want to see something other than 9-8 seasons or Wildcard eliminations in the playoffs.
The NFL is a “what have you done for me recently?” league. And there is no better example of that being true than the New England Patriots reportedly deciding that they will move on from Bill Belichick in the offseason. In the last four seasons, the Patriots have a record of 28-35, and are currently in the midst of a 3-10 season that is likely to finish with the lowest win total of Belichick’s tenure in New England. He has also divvied up big money in bad assets. Giving big contracts to the likes of DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith- those aren’t smart investments. Plus, the carousel of quarterbacks doing the Spider Man pointing meme have put them in a pit lower than mediocre- they are flat out terrible.
So if the greatest coach of all time can be handed a pink slip, then why shouldn’t the Steelers follow suit and move on from Mike Tomlin? Why shouldn’t the Steelers move on from a coach who has only won a playoff game in four of his 17 seasons? Why shouldn’t Pittsburgh look to go in a more offensive direction when their offense has been amongst the worse in the NFL over the last three seasons?
Like Belichick, Tomlin is a great coach. But the league, and how you win important games in it, is passing him by. And more often than not, we’ve been given example after example that he isn’t going to change. If he is still the head coach in 2024, and he will be in charge, expect more of the same. A lot of lip service on “squirreling nuts” or “smiling in the face of adversity,” hires from within the organization, and sluggish offensive performances that wind up getting to 9-10 wins and an immediate playoff elimination. That’s Pittsburgh’s current ceiling. And it’s been that way since their loss to the Jaguars in the 2017-18 Divisional round.
The worst part is that when New England does move on from Belichick, they are going to do all of the things Steelers fans want Pittsburgh to do. They are going to hire an offensive guru- likely Ben Johnson from Detroit or perhaps Bobby Slowik from Houston (although that may be a stretch after just one season as Texans’ offensive coordinator). And with their draft position, they’ll be able to take one of the top quarterbacks in the draft and build around them both with their remaining draft picks and free agency.
What will the Steelers do? Exactly what I’ve already said. Barely beat bad teams. Get humiliated by great ones. Win nine games. Pat themselves on the back for another non-losing season. Rinse and repeat. The same thing the organization has done for far too long. Because the standard is no longer the standard.