Even When Mike Tomlin Wins He Can’t Win

The haters will never give Coach Tomlin his props.

Heading into Sunday’s game against New England, Mike Tomlin and the Steelers had the weight of the Patriots on their shoulders.

They had not beaten the Pats in seven years, although many feel that the refs stole a victory from the Steelers in last year’s match-up after their horrendous no-catch call on Jesse James towards the end of the game. Sunday’s game was a must-win game for both teams. Tomlin had to find a way to exorcise the demons in the form of bad calls, costly interceptions and poor play calling and lead his team to victory.

That was no easy task, especially with Tom Brady under center. The future Hall of Famer has historically torched Pittsburgh, amassing a career record of 11-3 against the Steelers.

But Tomlin, who has never had a losing season in his twelve-year tenure with the team, seemed to have instilled a different mindset in the team this time around. Their opening drive culminated in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to tight end Vance McDonald. The Patriots struck back immediately, with Brady hitting a wide open Chris Hogan for a 63-yard bomb.

Steelers fans felt those same feelings start to stir, the ones which told us that Brady was about to shred the secondary and throw for a billion yards and 25 TDs.

But the defense stayed strong. They pressured Brady all night and gave the Pats’ offensive line fits. New England committed 14 penalties for 106 yards, pushing them further and further away from the end zone in crucial situations.

Even the maligned Chris Boswell, who has taken a significant step back from last season, bounced back from a missed 32-yard field goal in the third quarter to drill a 48-yarder in the fourth.



It was a total team effort, highlighted by a surprise performance from rookie running back Jaylen Samuels, who ran for a season-high 142 yards in only his second career start.

Yet even after the Steelers pulled off a huge win, giving them momentum heading into next weekend’s next big game against the Saints, the haters came out.

It’s par for the course when it comes to Coach Tomlin.

When he wins, credit is given to Big Ben, Antonio Brown or even Bill Cowher. Yes, some critics continue to say that Tomlin inherited Coach Cowher’s team, so in essence all he had to do was show up as the team was going to win Super Bowl XLIII by themselves.

But here’s a history lesson from Sporting News’ Mike DeCourcy:

“Chuck Noll won four Super Bowls from 1974 through 1979. Then he missed the playoffs eight times in the next dozen years. Bill Cowher coached the Steelers to six consecutive playoff appearances, including one Super Bowl trip, after taking over the team in 1992. Then he went 7-9, 6-10 and 9-7, all three teams missing the playoffs. No one got fired.”

When Tomlin wins, he gets little credit. Yet when they lose, it’s all his fault.

Not the team’s fault, his fault.

When the Steelers went on a six game win streak, no credit was given to his coaching.

When Ben threw the interception in the end zone against Denver at the end of the game, it was Tomlin’s fault for not getting the team ready to play.

When Boswell slipped in Oakland and missed the game tying field goal, it was Tomlin’s fault for not putting Ben back sooner, even though it was later learned that he had cracked ribs.


But when the entire team comes together and plays well like they did this weekend, it’s because of the team. Nothing gets attributed to the coaching decisions of Mike Tomlin.



It was Tomlin who drafted star players such as Maurkice Pouncey (#18 in 2010), Antonio Brown (#195 in 2010), Cameron Heyward (#31 in 2011), David DeCastro (#24 in 2012), Le’Veon Bell (#48 in 2013), Ryan Shazier (#15 in 2014) and TJ Watt (#30 in 2017). He also selected James Connor (#105 in 2017) and Jaylen Samuels (#165 in 2018).

But let me guess, you’re going to attribute those picks solely to the GM and the team’s scouts. Tomlin had nothing to do with it, right?

It was Tomlin’s “next man up” philosophy that inspired the team’s backups to perform when it was their time.

Of course the doubters will claim that player performances were due to their individual skills. Again, Tomlin had nothing to do with them getting to that level. But when Ben throws a pick in the end zone, it becomes Tomlin’s fault.



No man is perfect, and Tomlin has made his share of mistakes. Yet he continues to win and support his players, calling them out when they mess up and encouraging them when times are bleak.

Take Boswell for example, who has cost the Steelers much this season. Tomlin stuck with him yesterday and was rewarded by his key 48-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

”He’s our kicker from start to finish and I liked that way he came back and banged that next opportunity, and that’s what this thing is about,” said coach Tomlin. ”You are going to be tested, we are going to be tested. Sometimes you are going to fail, but you better pass enough of them.”

Tomlin continues to fight the doubters, critics and racists. And, most importantly, he keeps winning. With last night’s victory, he cemented another winning season. He also joined a group of elite coaches who also hold resumes with non-losing seasons.


Tomlin has never ducked accountability. He checks players when they need checking, makes winning about the team and places loses on his shoulders. He continues to deal with adversity, never makes it about himself and responds to questions with “we”.

Yet he doesn’t shy away from his personal responsibility as head coach. He firmly plants his “the buck stops with me” flag in the Heinz Field turf.

”Sometimes you got to cut your eyelids off when you want to blink when it gets thick, and we talk openly about that.” said Tomlin when discussing the adversity the Steelers face and continue to face, even after yesterday’s big win.

But with his successful resume and proven record, fans need to stop blaming him for everything, and give the man the credit he’s due.

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