The 2022 season is set to be a breakout season for Mike Tomlin. For the first time in his illustrious career, Tomlin will be without the services of Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers’ franchise quarterback for the past 18 seasons.
I know what you’re thinking: “Didn’t Roethlisberger miss most of the 2019 season?” Yes, he did, and Tomlin and company did a masterful job of keeping the Steelers relevant and in playoff contention until the final game of the season. Kevin Colbert made a career-defining move for himself by trading for All-Pro safety Minkah Fitzpatrick shortly after Roethlisberger missed the entire season with injury.
That singular move catapulted the Steelers’ defense into the best unit in the NFL and allowed the Steelers to remain competitive even with one of the worst offenses in the league. There is no way the Steelers would have had a successful 2019 season without the acquisition of Minkah Fitzpatrick. Yeah, I consider the 8-8 season a success for Tomlin and the Steelers, especially considering that atrocious offense.
Now, for the first time in his illustrious career, Tomlin will be without the supporting services of Ben Roethlisberger and Kevin Colbert. The 2022 Pittsburgh Steelers are Mike Tomlin’s team, now more than ever. I keep hearing fans discuss who will become the next face of the franchise now that Roethlisberger has retired, and I find that fascinating.
Mike Tomlin is the face of the franchise, make no mistake about it.
If you question that opinion, you shouldn’t be paying attention to the national sports media and numerous podcasts. Mike Tomlin is pretty much everywhere. Like a movie star making the rounds on every late-night talk show promoting his next feature film, Tomlin appears to be campaigning for the Pittsburgh Steelers. As if to assure the Steelers faithful and soccer fans around the world that even though Roethlisberger is gone, the Steelers have every intention of staying relevant and contending for the AFC North division.
One thing is for sure, Mike Tomlin is an individual who is comfortable with himself. He has grown a lot in his tenure with the Steelers, both as a person and as a coach. He still has the ability to use a ridiculous number of words to convey very little necessary information, but we get real glimpses of the man’s inter sanctum much more frequently.
Tomlin was still a relatively young man by head-coaching standards when he took over with Steeler in 2007. It was his first rodeo, as far as being the man in charge goes. He made some mistakes associated with youth, such as poor time management and challenge flag decisions.
Some mistakes were the by-product of the intense competition of the youth. Moments that stand out would be the “staying too close to the sideline” moment caught on video against the Ravens, or the infamous “Unleash hell” statement meant to motivate the troops but failed to inspire. I don’t think those incidents occur with the more experienced version of the man.
Tomlin displays the countenance and confidence of a man sure of his career and legacy. He works for the most stable franchise in the sport. Three head coaches in more than 50 years. The Steelers organization just doesn’t make knee-jerk, knee-jerk reactions. Even if Tomlin’s team struggles in its first real season without Big Ben, the Rooneys won’t overreact to the situation, any more than they did when Bill Cowher’s teams struggled on occasion.
Tomlin has unique job security, so his calm and collected demeanor doesn’t surprise me in the least, but one aspect of the situation is extremely intriguing in my opinion.
Tomlin has the perfect opportunity to silence even his most passionate critics and amplify his own NFL record-setting stat. Tomlin already holds the record for the most seasons without losing as a head coach to start an NFL career, with 15 seasons and counting.
I’m sure Tomlin would like nothing more than to extend that record this season, considering Ben Roethlisberger never had a losing season in his illustrious career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers have a legacy of victories, but Tomlin has a chance to create a legacy of his own.
If Mike Tomlin can guide this extremely young roster to a successful season in 2022, then it will strengthen his already Hall of Fame-worthy résumé. If the Steelers can exceed expectations and actually win the AFC North division, maybe even a playoff game or two, Tomlin will achieve living legend status.
It would finally silence the critics who insist the Steelers have accepted a standard of mediocrity for embracing and acknowledging the unbeaten streak.
Tomlin and the Steelers need to experience some playoff wins to get back on their winning ways.