Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Thoughts on Mike Tomlin's rapid ascension
By James Walker
With two Super Bowl appearances the past three seasons, Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers has quickly placed himself among the NFL's coaching elite.
Tomlin finished second in ESPN.com's coaching Power Rankings following four consecutive winning seasons, two Super Bowl appearances and one championship. He trailed only New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who received all eight first-place votes from our panel.
Mike Tomlin was the consensus No. 2 coach, narrowly ranking ahead of Andy Reid.
Tomlin's rapid ascension up the coaching ranks is impressive. He was a relative unknown when the Steelers hired him in 2007. But his energy, charisma and passion for the game led to the Steelers not missing a beat following the switch from longtime Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher.
Tomlin's biggest strength is his leadership. He commands respect and knows how to push the right buttons within his locker room. But Tomlin also gives his players enough rope when needed and relates to them extremely well. That tough balance is where a lot of head coaches fall short.
I don't know if any coach could have handled quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's off-the-field issues and subsequent suspension as well as Tomlin last year. There was a dark cloud hanging over the Steelers the entire offseason. Most people, including your AFC North blogger, wrote off Pittsburgh, which had to play a quarter of the season without its franchise quarterback. But Tomlin masterfully coached the Steelers to a 3-1 record which catapulted the team's Super Bowl run.
Despite falling one scoring drive short of the title, last season was Tomlin's best coaching job, in my opinion. He won the Super Bowl following the 2008 season. But Tomlin's resolve through extreme circumstances in 2010 cemented his status as one of the league's top coaches.
The Steelers do not botch coaching hires. Chuck Noll, Cowher and Tomlin are the only three people to hold that position in Pittsburgh since 1969. In just four seasons, Tomlin is already on the fast track to filling those huge shoes left by his predecessors.
ESPN.com's coaching Power Rankings
1. Bill Belichick, Patriots
2. Mike Tomlin, Steelers
3. Andy Reid, Eagles
4. Mike McCarthy, Packers
5. Sean Payton, Saints
6. Tom Coughlin, Giants
7. Rex Ryan, Jets
8. Lovie Smith, Bears
9. Mike Smith, Falcons
10. (tie) John Harbaugh, Ravens; Mike Shanahan, Redskins