Last month a former Pittsburgh Steelers player called it ‘absurd’ when Mike Tomlin wasn’t within the Top 5 on a list of the best head coaches in the NFL. Bryant McFadden—a former second-round pick who played cornerback for Tomlin between 2007-08 and 2010-11—may feel a little bit better today.
Mike Tomlin No. 5 on USA Today’s List
That’s because Steven Ruiz of USA Today has Tomlin at No. 5 on his NFL coach rankings, trailing Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, John Harbaugh and Sean Payton in slots 1-4, but ahead of Pete Carroll, Doug Pederson, Kyle Shanahan, Sean McVay and Mike Zimmer, who round out the Top 10.
“Tomlin has won a Super Bowl and been back to another and I still don’t think it’s crazy to suggest that the 2019 season was his best coaching job yet…. Thanks in large part to a resurgent defense, the Steelers finished 8-6 down the stretch with two quarterbacks who may never start another game,” wrote Ruiz.
Overly harsh assessment of Mason Rudolph aside, Ruiz might be right about last year being Tomlin’s best coaching job. He lost franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger to a season-ending elbow injury in week two, yet the Steelers still finished with a .500 record. This in spite of the fact that the Steelers played half of last season with Devlin ‘ Duck’ Hodges at quarterback, a rookie undrafted free agent out of Samford University in Alabama, who was signed for a mere $1,000 after a late-spring tryout.
Mike Tomlin Can Tie a Coaching Record in 2020
To date Mike Tomlin has established a career record of 133-74-1, but if he has a non-losing season this year, he will tie Marty Schottenheimer for the head coach with the longest stretch of non-losing seasons in NFL history. Schottenheimer set that record with the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs between 1984 and 1997 before he went 7-9 with the Chiefs in 1998.
Tomlin’s best regular season record is 13-3, which came in 2017, and he won Super Bowl XLIII with the Steelers in 2009. His teams have finished 8-8 three times, in 2012, 2013, and 2019.
He recently discussed how his ‘miserable failure’ of a playing career ‘sharpened his sword’ for coaching, and how that experience has helped him relate to his players, especially his wide receivers. As part of that same roundtable he related his challenge to this year’s rookie class; obviously, this year’s rookies face a unique set of circumstances as they try to earn jobs and establish themselves in the NFL.
The Other AFC North Head Coaches
In case you’re wondering, the two other AFC North head coaches are far down on Ruiz’s list, with Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals at #27 and Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns tied for #30, the latter a rookie head coach who has yet to establish a track record. Taylor went through a nightmarish rookie season with the Bengals, but adding QB Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in the draft gives him the opportunity to turn things around in short order.
Follow the Heavy on Steelers Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!