Mike Tomlin is not going anywhere anytime soon.
The Pittsburgh Steelers locked down their long-time head coach on Tuesday with a new three-year contract extension that keeps him with the team through the 2024 season, the team announced.
This effectively signals that Tomlin, who is entering his 15th season as the head man in Pittsburgh, is all-in for this team’s post-Ben Roethlisberger rebuild, which could start as soon as next year. The head coach released a statement after the announcement of the extension.
“I am extremely grateful for this contract extension and want to thank Art Rooney II and everyone in the organization for the support in my first 14 seasons,” Tomlin said. “We have a goal of winning the organization’s seventh Super Bowl championship, and I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about this upcoming season.”
The Steelers, Tomlin, and Roethlisberger all seem pretty bullish on their Super Bowl prospects this season, which is likely to be something of a swan song for Big Ben. Their path to the Super Bowl remains murky, however, with a lack of depth on defense and nothing to really write home about along the offensive line or in the offensive backfield.
That’s probably why oddsmakers and sportsbooks like 888sport are not taking their chances very seriously, with their odds to win the Super Bowl sitting at sky-high +2,800 NFL odds, which puts them way back in 14th on the odds table.
That’s not a position the Steelers and their fans can be accustomed to considering the franchise’s history. Pittsburgh is also sitting back in third on the AFC North winner odds table with +275 NFL odds despite having won the division last season.
There has been some backlash and surprise at the extension for Tomlin considering what happened with the team last season. They jumped out to an 11-0 start before the bottom fell out and they lost five of their final six games, including a brutal 48-37 home loss to the division-rival Cleveland Browns in the playoffs.
Offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was let go after the season, as was offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett. Center Maurkice Pouncey and tight end Vance Macdonald both retired, and starting running back James Conner as well as defensive starters Bud Dupree and Mike Hilton signed elsewhere.
There has been a lot of turnover, but the most important thing was the resigning of Big Ben and the restructuring of his contract, which also allowed them to snare Juju Smith-Schuster before the wideout left in free agency.
The continuity offered to this team in such a transitional period by the Tomlin extension cannot be understated. They have an extremely important draft coming up next week where their first three picks will hopefully result in two offensive lineman and a bell-cow back to resurrect a porous rushing attack that has finished 32nd, 29th, and 31st in yards per game over the past three seasons.
Tomlin will also be looking to change the notion that his team’s run out of gas down the stretch nowadays. In 2018 the Steelers lost four of their final six games to fall to 9-6-1 and miss out on the playoffs, and they did the same in 2019 when they dropped their final three games to finish 8-8.
In fact, Tomlin’s teams have gone just 3-6 in the playoffs since their last Super Bowl appearance in 2010 and have only made it to one AFC Championship in that span, losing in 2016 to the New England Patriots. Clearly, the Steelers brass believes Tomlin can rediscover his previous glory, and he’s always been a locker room favorite for the players.
The Hampton, Virginia native played college ball at William & Mary where he was a top wideout in the Yankee Conference. After graduating and going undrafted in 1995, Tomlin dove into the coaching realm.
He began by floating around as an offensive assistant at VMI, Memphis, and Arkansas State. In 1998 the Red Wolves flipped Tomlin onto the defensive side of the ball as the defensive backs coach, which proved to be a prescient move.
Tomlin has been a defensive-minded coach ever since, stopping off at Cincinnati to serve as their DBs coach from 1999 to 2000 before finally making his jump to the big leagues. He led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive backfield from 2001 to 2005, winning a Super Bowl in 2002 as part of one of the best defenses in NFL history.
He served just one year as the defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings in 2006 before he got the call from the Steelers in 2007 to replace the recently retired Bill Cowher and become just Pittsburgh’s third head coach since 1969. Tomlin’s new extension means the Steelers will have had just three head coaches over a 55-year period.
Tomlin once again led an all-time defense in 2008, this time a Steelers unit headed by James Harrison and Troy Polamalu. Pittsburgh would win a Super Bowl that season, Tomlin’s second in charge, and went to another one two years later in 2010, only to fall to the Green Bay Packers.
The Steelers have shown more patience than perhaps any other pro sports franchise when it comes to head coaches. To put it in perspective, the Browns have had nine different coaches since Tomlin was hired by the Steelers.
In his 14-year career as head coach, Tomlin has put up a 145-87-1 record, reaching the playoffs nine times, and winning the AFC North seven times during his tenure. His .650 winning percentage is second all-time among NFL coaches with at least 100 games under their belt and has yet to experience a losing season at the helm.