In my opinion, there are 2 types of people in this world: those who love Mike Tomlin, or atleast respect him as the boss that he is, and those who are wrong. I’m the former. I love him. If I won the lottery I’d absolutely inquire about the possibility of hiring Tomlin to just follow me around and give life advice for a week, if only to see what the next level of my personal development looks like.
A-hole at work steals your idea and takes credit for it?
“Next idea up, Pinto.”
Missed a deadline because your computer pooped itself?
“We are not a person who’s in the business of making excuses, Pinto.”
I think the world of the guy, so you can imagine that I was a little put off when I saw Colin Cowherd’s rant trying to belittle his influence on the Steelers over the past decade. He also uses Manning and Brady, and particularly their success within their respective divisions, to argue that the Steelers aren’t meeting a certain success criteria.
Naturally, I disagree with him. Let’s set the record straight.
Shouldn’t we set the bar a lot higher for the Steelers?
First, there’s this comment in the actual tweet. A quick Google search for best NFL teams led me to this article by For The Win ranking NFL teams by wins and playoff appearances over the past 10 years. Remember this article, because we’ll be coming back to it and it’s sister (Ranking the NFL’s best divisions by non-division wins and playoff appearances, also by For The Win) throughout this debunking. Anyways, the Steelers place 3rd overall in that first link with 101 wins, trailing only the Patriots (122) and the Colts (110). Not sure what to say here. Sorry we’re not 1st?
The Steelers also have 6 playoff appearances over that stretch, tied with the Bengals for 5th overall behind the aforementioned Pats and Colts with 9 and the Ravens and Packers with 7. Notice anything about that Top 6? More on this in a second.
Making the playoffs isn’t a high enough standard
His argument here is that making the playoffs shouldn’t be enough for a team like Pittsburgh with a QB like Roethlisberger considering that Ben has been one of the 3 best QB’s in the conference over the past 10 years. They should be a guarantee to win the division every year, like Brady’s Patriots and Manning’s Colts. But is winning the AFC East or South really the same as winning the North?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: Not even close. Let’s look at it a couple of different ways.
Going just by wins, the list that had the Steelers 3rd also had the Ravens 6th (with 96) and the Bengals 15th (84). That gives the AFC North 3 teams in the Top 15, as well as 3 teams before the AFC South or East got their 2nd.
Referencing the 2nd article that ranks the divisions by non-division wins, the AFC North is again 1st with 8.35 per team. The East (8.2) and South (8) are a respectable 3rd and 4th by this count, which is impressive until you realize that the Pats and Colts each account for over a third of their divisions’ respective win totals. If you look at it by playoff appearances, the AFC North remains 1st with 19 (and referencing that individual list above has 3 of the Top 6), while the South drops into a 3-way tie for 3rd with 15 and the East falls all the way back to 6th with 13. This means that while the North averages almost 1 wildcard team per year, the South averages 1 every other year and the East averages less than 1 every 3 years.
Finally, and conclusively, let’s pursue this line of reasoning a little further using Cowherd’s own arguments. In his rant against Tomlin/Pittsburgh/Ben, Colin goes on to name 8 AFC teams who can’t even get the QB position right. Those 8 teams? The New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
That’s weird. Am I crazy, or do 6 of those 8 teams reside in the AFC East and AFC South? You’ve just said we can always pencil in Brady’s Patriots and Manning’s Colts to win their respective divisions; well jeez I wonder why? Forgetting that they’re probably 2 of the top 5 quarterbacks of all-time by almost any standard, you yourself just named their direct competition for division titles as 6 of the 8 worst quarterbacked teams in the conference over the past 15 years. This is the basis of your argument that Tomlin/Pittsburgh/Ben have underachieved? Seriously?
Tomlin inherited Big Ben, a great roster, and the Steelers organization, but has gotten gradually worse after early success
None of those first 3 statements are inaccurate in and of themselves. He did inherit Ben, he did inherit a great roster, and the Steelers are a great organization.
But couldn’t you also turn each of those points around and use them to give credit to Tomlin?
Steelers fans have always recognized Ben’s quality and rated him as one of the best in the game, but it wasn’t until the last 4 or 5 years that the national media dropped the “game manager” narrative and rightfully started to recognize Ben for the star that he is. Well, who drafted him the weapons he’s been throwing to over that stretch? Who drafted 4 offensive lineman in the first 2 rounds since 2010 to help protect him? Who hired a new OC who favored an offensive scheme that would further protect Ben’s health and help prolong his career? Those decisions haven’t had an effect on Ben’s ascendancy?
Sure, Tomlin inherited a nice roster, but he promptly took that roster 2 Super Bowls, winning 1. How is that a knock on him? Now the core of that roster has aged and retired, and we’ve predictably had to deal with some growing pains over the last few years, not to mention the rise of the Bengals (who by many counts had the best roster in the conference last year) from occasional pain to legit contender. But Tomlin has also had a hand in drafting guys like Antonio Brown, LeVeon Bell, Martavis Bryant, Pouncey, DeCastro, Heyward, Tuitt, Dupree, and Shazier who are either entering or firmly in their primes and looking like they’ll be the core of team moving forward.
A lot goes into that rebuilding process, and Tomlin is definitely lucky to be part of such a great organization, but that organization selected him. He didn’t fall ass-backwards into it. The Pittsburgh Steelers chose to make Mike Tomlin their 3rd coach since the Civil Rights movement, and that by itself makes him a member of a very elite group. 2 Super Bowl appearances, 1 ring, and 4 division titles in 9 years playing in the best division in football. I would wager that both parties would consider it a mutually beneficial relationship.