A Formal Apology to Mike Tomlin

By Logan Leslie

I, as many fans have been very critical of Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin throughout the last few seasons. I have noted in previous articles his failure to coach the team up against below average competition, the team’s lack of discipline and poor defensive performances, among other facets of the team. While I still feel many of these factors to be true, I have always been someone who gives credit where credit is due.

After losing his Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, Tomlin was forced to turn to Mason Rudolph, an inexperienced third round draft pick who was considered as the “heir apparent” to Big Ben. Rudolph slowly began to show he was not deserving of this title.

Tomlin was able to see that the talent this team has displayed on defense was more than enough to win games, so long the offense could take care of the football and put up a respectable amount of points. He decided to turn to Devlin “Duck” Hodges, an undrafted rookie QB who did not receive an invite to the NFL combine. Tomlin saw an immense confidence in Duck, which Rudolph had not shown thus far. Since the switch, the Steelers have vaulted themselves strongly into the playoff race with big wins over the Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals, and Duck has done exactly what Tomlin believed he could do… “not kill us”.

The turnover at quarterback has been only one chapter in an unbelievable stretch of coaching for Mike Tomlin. The team lost their two best offensive weapons in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, and have played stretches of this season without James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Maurkice Pouncey and Stephon Tuitt (out for season). Nevertheless, they have prevailed to an 8-5 record after beginning the season 1-4. He has helped navigate an offense full of misfit toys into a playoff team.

The story of the team thus far has been the return of the Steel Curtain, which over the years has been my main complaint with Tomlin led teams. Tomlin was considered a defensive guru but consistently struggled to put a good product on the field after multiple Cowher era players left the team. This season, all weaknesses have been filled with great strategic moves.

The first move being the signing of a very underrated CB named Steven Nelson. Nelson has been the league’s top graded Pro Football Focus cornerback. Nelson has filled the void opposite Joe Haden perfectly.

The next move made was trading assets to obtain the number 10 overall pick, LB Devin Bush. Bush has widely been considered on of the best 5 players thus far selected in last year’s draft. He has amassed huge tackle numbers, a solid coverage grade, interceptions, a forced fumble, four fumble recoveries, and a touchdown. Bush was identified as the replacement for Ryan Shazier and Tomlin was instrumental in acquiring him.

The final and most impactful move was the trade for S Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick has completely changed the defense. A team which greatly struggled to defend deep passes has become one of the best in the NFL. Fitzpatrick has also given the Steelers a physical ball hawking DB we haven’t seen since the days of Troy Polamalu. Essentially, he has been the icing on the cake to make a good defense a great one. While these moves were technically done by Kevin Colbert, we should give Tomlin credit as he had most certainly the lion’s share of influence.

We should all embrace Tomlin as the leader of this team and see the future as bright in the hands of Mike Tomlin.



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