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 might be inclined to consider changing their fortunes. Especially when they are arguably one of the most successful organizations in NFL history.
But it is not even a fleeting thought for the Steelers, who have had just three head coaches in 54 years and don’t anticipate that changing anytime in the near future. No matter what their record.
That is the message that has been delivered by team president Art Rooney II, who, if recent history holds true, is scheduled to extend coach Mike Tomlin’s contract sometime before the start of the 2023 season.
Tomlin is already under contract through the 2024 season, but the Steelers have made a practice of extending his deal when it has two years remaining. If that remains the case, Tomlin will be extended through the 2026 season, which would be his 20th with the team — just three years shy of Chuck Noll’s tenure with the Steelers.
When asked at his season wrap-up press conference if this is a contract extension year for Tomlin, Rooney said, “I don’t like to speculate on our coach’s contract. So, we will see.”
Even though the Steelers missed the playoffs for the first time in three seasons, Rooney lauded the way the team fought back from a 2-6 start to finish at 9-8, keeping alive the league’s longest active streak of never having a losing season since 2004.
And in an interview on Steelers.com, the team’s official website, Rooney indicated he doesn’t need to see anything more from Tomlin to know he is the right man for the job — for as long as he chooses.
“I don’t really evaluate Mike on anything other than I’m glad he’s our coach,” Rooney said. “Hopefully he’ll be our coach into the future. He gives us a chance to win, year in and year out, and put 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 customary two, in part because his previous extension was for one year plus an option.
This one will come at a time when the Steelers have gone 18-16-1 over the past two seasons and includes their third consecutive playoff defeat — 42-21 in Kansas City after the 2021 season.
And, when it does, the extension will further infuriate that segment of the fan base that points to the Steelers not winning a playoff game in six years — the franchise’s longest drought since the 1970 merger — and hasn’t been to the Super Bowl in 12 years. Since their last appearance in 2010, 14 different teams, or 44% of the league, have been to the Super Bowl.
The Steelers, though, believe in stability and longevity, and that approach has benefitted 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 winning percentage than both (.636), is no doubt headed there.
The only time the Steelers made a change in their head coach is when Noll and Cowher each decided to retire. It didn’t matter that Noll once went four consecutive seasons without making the playoffs. Or Cowher once went three in a row.
It should not come as a surprise Tomlin has been afforded the same luxury.
Heyward to Pro Bowl
The Steelers added one more representative to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday, as defensive tackle Cam Heyward was named a replacement for Kansas City’s Chris Jones. As of now, Heyward, linebacker T.J. Watt and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick will represent Pittsburgh during this year’s new Pro Bowl Games, which will replace the traditional football matchup.