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Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin’s record in second half of seasons speaks for itself

In sports, it’s often not about how you start, but how you finish. For the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin, finishing strong is usually the hallmark of his teams.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin wins a lot of football games.

There are those would say his win total should be higher than it is, due to a tendency to lose to inferior teams. Those people would have a mostly valid argument. What cannot be refuted, though, is that he wins far more often than he loses.

That’s very clearly demonstrated by his winning percentage, which currently sits at .649. Put another way, Tomlin wins 64.9 percent of all the games he coaches. That’s good for 16th.


That’s right, 16th all-time. Of all active coaches, Tomlin is second only to New England head coach Bill Belichick. That makes perfect sense, considering he is also second only to Belichick in Super Bowl wins and appearances, among active coaches.

There’s one characteristic of Tomlin’s teams that stands out right alongside his winning percentage: Tomlin’s teams historically get better as the season progresses.

Overall Numbers

Consider: in the first half of seasons (games No. 1 through No. 8 each year), including 2017, the Steelers are 56-32 in 88 games under Tomlin. In the second half of seasons (games No. 9 through No. 16), the Steelers are 53-27 in 80 games. Those are good for winning percentages of .636 and .663, respectively. Not a huge difference over the course of Tomlin’s entire career, but enough to be statistically meaningful. In seven of 10 full seasons, Tomlin’s second-half win percentage was equal to or better than it was in the first half of the season. This is specifically true during the last four seasons, when Tomlin’s teams improved their record in the second half of the year each and every time. The full numbers can be seen in the table below.

Mike Tomlin’s Wins by Half-Season

Year Season Games 1-8 Win % Games 9-16 Win % Final Record Win %
Year Season Games 1-8 Win % Games 9-16 Win % Final Record Win %
2007 1 6-2 .750 4-4 .500 10-6 .625
2008 2 6-2 .750 6-2 .750 12-4 .750
2009 3 6-2 .750 3-5 .375 9-7 .563
2010 4 6-2 .750 6-2 .750 12-4 .750
2011 5 6-2 .750 6-2 .750 12-4 .750
2012 6 5-3 .625 3-5 .375 8-8 .500
2013 7 2-6 .250 6-2 .750 8-8 .500
2014 8 5-3 .625 6-2 .750 11-5 .688
2015 9 4-4 .500 6-2 .750 10-6 .625
2016 10 4-4 .500 7-1 .875 11-5 .688
2017 11 6-2 .750

What is most impressive about those numbers is that he wasn’t making second-half improvement an easy goal to achieve. In just one of Tomlin’s 10 full seasons did his team start with a first-half record below .500, when they started 2-6 in 2013. The midpoint of that season was the moment the Steelers turned around, finishing each year since with a winning record. He’s got his work cut out for him in 2017, though, as his team began the season 6-2. Only by equaling or bettering last season’s 7-1 finish can Tomlin’s team improve their record in the second half of the season for the fifth straight year. The schedule, however, certainly favors this opportunity.

Situational Stats

These numbers look even better when looking at the situations the team will face in the second half of 2017.

Games 9-16 At Home

At Heinz Field in the second half of seasons, Tomlin has been downright outstanding. In seven of 10 full seasons, Tomlin’s teams have lost no more than one game at home. Twice, they lost two games at home (2009, ‘10) and lost three games one time (2012). Overall, Tomlin is 31-13 (.705) at home after the midpoint of the season.

The Steelers play five of their remaining eight games at home in 2017.

Against the AFC North

Tomlin will lead his squad against AFC North foes in three of the team’s final eight games this season. In his career, Tomlin is 28-10 (.737) against the AFC North in the second half of the season. Last season, he was 4-0 against the Ravens, Bengals and Browns in that situation. His worst season in this regard was 2009, when the Steelers went 1-3 in the division.

By comparison, his teams are just 16-9 (.640) against the AFC North in games one through eight — including a 3-0 record so far in 2017.

Against Remaining 2017 Opponents

Tomlin’s second-half record against the eight teams left on the schedule is 24-15 (.615). This includes overall losing records to the Ravens (4-5) and Patriots (1-3), leaving him 19-7 (.731) against the other six opponents.

While Tomlin takes a lot of flak from fans and the media for some losses that left almost everyone speechless, it’s hard to argue with the overall result: he wins a lot, and his teams get better as the season wears on.

That’s good news for a team that’s just beginning to hit its stride, not to mention a fan base hungry for one more shot at a Super Bowl victory before quarterback Ben Roethlisberger heads off into the sunset — and, probably, to Canton, Ohio’s NFL Hall of Fame.