Ten seasons. 103-57 record. Seven playoff appearances. Five AFC North titles. Two AFC Championships. One Super Bowl victory.
That’s quite the impressive resume for Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Unfortunately, the well-nourished elephant in the room has always been the fully-stocked cupboard former head coach, the legendary Bill Cowher, left for him when he resigned in January of 2007.
Fifteen seasons. 149-90-1 record. Ten playoff appearances. Six AFC Central titles. Two AFC North titles. Two AFC Championships. One Super Bowl victory. Emotion. Intensity. Hometown grit (he is from Crafton, Pa.). Fire. Passion. His own players.
That’s right, in addition to everything else, Cowher achieved all that he did with his very own players.
Cowher drafted prospects and signed free-agents. When they left or got too old to compete, he started over....two or three different times.
And when Cowher decided to hang his spittle and fire up following the 2006 season, he left behind a roster full of legends.
Troy Polamalu, Alan Faneca, Ike Taylor, Hines Ward, and, finally, long-snapper Greg Warren, an undrafted free-agent out of North Carolina, who Cowher handpicked in 2005.
Unfortunately, due to the relentless nature of time, those legends began to, one-by-one, get on with their life’s work.
One player remained, however, and that was Warren.
Week-after-week and year-after-year, Warren plied his trade and helped continue the success that Cowher had created from scratch.
Sadly, like his fellow Super Bowl heroes, time eventually caught up to Warren on May 18, when the ball boy of life handed him a slippery, muddy football in the form of a failed physical.
Greg Warren was released by the team after 12 seasons of doing what he did.
It’s a new era in Pittsburgh. And it’s a demarcation in the career of Tomlin, who now must do it with his own players and not ride the coattails of the ones Cowher left behind.
Maurkice Pouncey is a great center, but can he win a Super Bowl like Jeff Hartings did?
Ryan Shazier is a great inside linebacker, but can he be the next Larry Foote?
Chris Boswell has proven to be an accurate kicker during his short career in Pittsburgh, but can he be Jeff Reed?
Colin Holba, the Steelers sixth round pick out of Louisville in the most-recent NFL Draft, has been the talk of the town, but can he do what Warren did?
Tomlin has left a lot to be desired during his 10 seasons with the Steelers, including an unwillingness to be as fiery as Cowher was on the sidelines—especially when the team is losing.
Why doesn’t he ever lay into them guys and get them going?
Due to the previously discussed fact that Tomlin has accomplished all that he has thanks to another man’s blood, sweat, tears and emotional spittle, he now must prove himself without the proverbial training wheels.
Coach Tomlin, Greg Warren is no longer here to pick up your slack.
It’s your team now.
Don’t screw this up.