I want to start this article with the simple fact I am a Pittsburgh sports fan. I don’t just like, and write about, the Steelers, but also am a rabid fan of the Penguins and Pirates. While following all three sports, it is hard not to see the similarities, and differences, between the fan bases.
Now, I would be foolish not to state the difference in the size of the fan bases. The Pirates, who sport the smallest fan base, are being lapped by the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Penguins in regards to those who cling to the team as their favorite, and the six-time Super Bowl champion Steelers fan base remains one of the largest in all of sports. But there is a large contingent of Pittsburgh fans who are just like me, and root for all three teams.
If you don’t follow hockey, or root for another team, this might not pertain to you, but you certainly can appreciate the comparison with the Steelers.
I couldn’t help but focus on social media when the Penguins hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup after Game 6 against the Nashville Predators. All I could see was praise for Mike Sullivan, the head coach of the Penguins, and the job he did throughout the seasons he has been the bench boss of the Pens.
What I didn’t see was immediate criticism of Sullivan for things which everyone has heard regarding Mike Tomlin, even immediately after his Super Bowl 43 victory.
Here is what wasn’t said:
- Sullivan won with Dan Bylsma and Michelle Therrien’s players.
- Sullivan is lucky he inherited Sydney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, he would suck without them.
- Sullivan loses to sub par teams. How in the hell does he let his team go to seven games against the Ottawa Senators?!
I realize the two sports are starkly different, but these are the same complaints about Mike Tomlin which have never stopped since the head coach had his first taste of success in the Steel City.
- Tomlin’s only Super Bowl win was with Bill Cowher’s players.
- If Mike Tomlin didn’t inherit Ben Roethlisberger, he would be exposed for the fraud he is.
- Tomlin never beats sub par competition. Every year he is good for at least one dud. Good coaches don’t let that happen.
The reality of the situation is Sullivan is at the pinnacle of his sport. There might be some criticism of him on social media, but those packs of people will be minute at this time of year.
Both coaches inherited quality lineups, put their own personal touches on their respective teams, and won championships. Although Tomlin has had more years without winning than Sullivan, the comparisons, and alternate responses to each coach’s success are valid.
Look up the word fickle in the dictionary, and this is what you will see:
“changing frequently, especially as regards one's loyalties, interests, or affection.”
This, would be the perfect adjective to describe Pittsburgh fans and their views of their head coaches. Two coaches, both reaching the pinnacle of their sport, and yet fans view them differently.
Sure, race could be a motivator for some fans, but for others there is just something different. Many might suggest it is the expected success of the Steelers, which was spawned by the ridiculous teams of the 1970s. Others might offer up the fact the Penguins are rather new to success, not capturing their first Stanley Cup since Mario Lemieux graced the Civic Arena donning No. 66.
Whatever the case may be, my suggestion is to not draw such a strong line in the sand when it comes to the successes, or failures, of the Pittsburgh coaches. Both coaches have brought world championships to Pittsburgh, and although we hang our proverbial hats on the fact Pittsburgh is the “City of Champions”, be proud this city has so many sports titles to it’s name. After all, you could be rooting for a team like the Cincinnati Bengals, or Cleveland Browns.