Most franchises that haven’t won a playoff game in six years and are one of 18 teams that haven’t even been to the Super Bowl in a dozen years may be inclined to consider turning their fortunes around. Especially when they are arguably one of the most successful organizations in NFL history.
But that’s not even a fleeting thought for the Steelers, who have had just three head coaches in 54 years and don’t expect that to change in the foreseeable future. It doesn’t matter what their record is.
That’s the message that was delivered by team president Art Rooney II, who, if recent history holds true, should extend head coach Mike Tomlin’s contract before the 2023 season begins.
Tomlin is already under contract through the 2024 season, but the Steelers have made a habit of extending his contract with two years left. If so, Tomlin will be extended through the 2026 season, which would be his 20th with the team, just three years into Chuck Noll’s tenure with the Steelers.
When asked at the closing press conference of the season if this is a one-year contract extension for Tomlin, Rooney said, “I don’t like to speculate on our manager’s contract. So, we’ll see.”
Even though the Steelers missed the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, Rooney praised how the team fought back from 2-6 start to 9-8, keeping the longest active streak alive in the league that they have never missed a season since. 2004.
And in an interview with Steelers.com, the team’s official website, Rooney indicated that he doesn’t need to see anything else from Tomlin to know he’s the right man for the job, while he wants to.
“I really don’t rate Mike on anything other than I’m glad he’s our coach,” Rooney said. “Hopefully he will be our coach in the future. He gives us the chance to win year after year and puts us in a position where we have a chance to compete for a championship.”
Tomlin’s most recent extension came in April 2021, three months after the Steelers won the AFC North title but were embarrassed by the Cleveland Browns, 48-37, in a wild card playoff game. The extension was for three years, not the usual two, partly because his previous extension was for one year plus an option.
This will come at a time when the Steelers have gone 18-16-1 over the past two seasons and includes their third straight playoff loss — 42-21 at Kansas City following the 2021 season.
And, when it does, the extension will further infuriate that segment of the fan base that indicates the Steelers haven’t won a playoff game in six years — the franchise’s longest drought since the 1970 merger — and haven’t been to the Super Bowl in 12 years. Since their last appearance in 2010, 14 different teams, or 44% of the league, have made the Super Bowl.
The Steelers, however, believe in stability and longevity and this approach has benefited them and their coaches. Both Noll and Bill Cowher are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Tomlin, who has a better regular season hitting percentage than both (. 636), is undoubtedly headed there.
The only time the Steelers changed their head coach was when Noll and Cowher decided to retire. It didn’t matter that Noll once went four straight seasons without making the playoffs. O Cowher once went three in a row.
It should come as no surprise that Tomlin was afforded the same luxury.
On to the Pro Bowl
The Steelers added another representative to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, as defensive tackle Cam Heyward was named to replace Kansas City’s Chris Jones. Starting now, Heyward, linebacker TJ Watt and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will represent Pittsburgh during this year’s new Pro Bowl Games, which will replace the traditional football matchup.
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