After beating the Cleveland Browns today, Mike Tomlin has his Pittsburgh Steelers sitting at 7-5. That 7-5 record is currently good enough for the Steelers to occupy the sixth spot in the AFC playoff picture.
Since becoming the head coach of the Steelers back in 2007, Tomlin has never finished a season with a losing record. Once again, Tomlin has his Steelers in position to finish with a winning record, needing just one more win this season to finish at least 8-8. If the Steelers do in fact finish this season with a winning record, it would mark the 13th straight season Tomlin’s Steelers have done so.
Although the Steelers are on track for their 13th straight winning season under Tomlin, this one has been a little different than most. To start off the season, the Steelers took a beating from the New England Patriots, losing 33-3. They then went on to lose their next two games to the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers.
By starting 0-3, the Pittsburgh Steelers had everyone thinking they were one of the worst teams in the NFL. It was fair to think so, as they lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season after their second game. More often than not, teams don’t do well when their starting quarterback goes down.
It certainly looked like the Steelers were doomed without their starting quarterback. With backup quarterback Mason Rudolph in, the Steelers got their first win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 4, but they then went on to lose to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 5, putting them at 1-4 through five weeks.
To make things even worse, Rudolph got hurt against the Ravens and was set to miss the next game, meaning the Steelers would have their third string quarterback in the game. Instead of refusing to quit and call the season a loss, Tomlin put together the perfect game plan for his third string quarterback, Devlin Hodges, to go in a beat the Los Angeles Chargers. It was with that win I knew the Steelers weren’t done just yet. The Chargers aren’t a great team this season, but how often do teams win games with their third string quarterbacks? Almost never.
Over the next three weeks, Tomlin led the Steelers to three straight wins over the Dolphins, Colts and Rams with Rudolph back in the lineup. However, he lost starting running back James Conner to injury for two of those games.
Then there was the first of two games between the Steelers and Browns. The Steelers lost this game, but it wasn’t just the game they lost. They also lost starting center Maurkice Pouncey for two games because of the fight that broke out in the final minute of the game.
After losing that game to the Browns, Tomlin has led the Steelers to two straight wins over the Bengals and Browns. Over these two games, things looked even worse for the Steelers going in. Against both the Bengals and Browns, the Steelers didn’t have starting wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. Starting running back James Conner was also out for those two games after returning for their first game against the Browns.
Then there’s the fact that Rudolph was benched against the Bengals for his horrible play. They won that game because Tomlin decided to put third string quarterback Devlin Hodges in for the second half. Hodges started the game against the Browns today, which resulted in a win.
So here’s a quick recap of what Tomlin has been working with, or more like without, to this point in the season:
- 10 games without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
- Four games without starting running back James Conner
- Two games without starting center Maurkice Pouncey
- Two games without starting wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster
- Two and a half games (benching) without backup quarterback Mason Rudolph
Tomlin has only had a full strength team in two games this season. Those were the first two games. Since then, Tomlin has had to deal with some sort of injury to a significant player every week, yet he’s led the Pittsburgh Steelers to a record of 7-3.
Regardless of if the Steelers end up making the playoffs or not, you have to admit that what Tomlin has been able to with this group of players is impressive.
I find it funny that just a season ago, there were rumors going around that Tomlin had lost control of the locker room. Many people wanted Tomlin out because of it. It’s pretty clear now that Tomlin never lost control of anything, he just had to deal with dramatic players such as Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell over the last couple of seasons, who did nothing but complain and be selfish regardless of results.
Remember, Tomlin is a Super Bowl winning coach. He’s also led the Steelers to a second Super Bowl appearance. It’s not every day a team has as many injuries to overcome as the Steelers have had this season, but it’s not every day you get a coach who can win with all those injuries either. If you don’t respect Tomlin already, start now, because he’s one of the best coaches in the NFL. Not many can do what he’s doing.