Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is the third head coach in 45 years to take the reigns of the franchise, but his lackluster 8-8 record for the past two seasons have some speculating just how much longer he’ll be leading the team.
Tomlin’s initial years as a young head coach following Bill Cowher’s departure was anything but dismal.
His first year, in 2007, was comprised of the top-rated defense while he led the Steelers to the AFC North division title with a 10-6 record.
In a gut-wrenching AFC Wildcard game the Steelers lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars, ending Tomlin’s first season as head coach.
In his sophomore season, Tomlin exceeded his accomplishments by claiming the AFC North division title again and defeating the Arizona Cardinals in one of the most exhilarating Super Bowls ever.
Despite his early success, many in Pittsburgh are left to wonder: Has Tomlin made the right decisions regarding personnel, free agent retention, and draft picks over the past four seasons?
Tomlin kept most of Cowher’s coaching staff to keep the fresh Super Bowl win from 2005 alive with the players, unusual for a new head coach.
However, his choices about which players to keep and let go, and what draft picks to sign have been questionable.
For example, Ziggy Hood, a defensive lineman drafted as a first round choice out of Missouri in 2009 turned out to be a disappointment.
Hood left the Steelers at the end of the 2013-14 season and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Lately, Tomlin hasn’t performed up to par with the loss to the Denver Broncos in the 2011 AFC Wildcard playoff and a 2012 season of an 8-8 record missing the playoffs completely.
A year later their absence and record was repeated amidst controversy, fines and a missed field goal by Kansas City Chiefs punter Ryan Succop that would have miraculously left a playoff spot open for the Steelers.
The NFL threatened draft picks for the Steelers and eventually fined Tomlin $100,000 for his stunt on the sidelines against the Baltimore Ravens during the Thanksgiving Day game.
Here in the Steel City, the Steelers’ playoff hopes shouldn’t depend on the victories or losses of a myriad of AFC Wildcard hopefuls.
Pittsburghers shouldn’t be rooting for the Kansas City Chiefs in a meaningless game peppered with back-ups, or the end of the Miami Dolphin’s season so the Steelers can slide into a playoff spot.
Tomlin himself is feeling the pressure.
Although he’s well aware about his recent coaching mishaps, he doesn’t seem to be expecting continuous forgiveness from the Rooney’s upstairs signing his checks.
“I don’t assume that,” Tomlin said about his job security with the Steelers to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
This year, with training camp around the corner, could either make or break Tomlin’s coaching career in Pittsburgh.
His job might be on the line, just like his foot, but this time he can’t blame a poor coaching performance on a distracting jumbotron.
Obviously, he may pay the ultimate price if he can’t deliver a season that Pittsburgh fans are proud of.