Mike Tomlin isn’t throwing in the Terrible Towel on streak of winning seasons yet

The former Bucs defensive backs coach has never had a losing record in 15 seasons as head coach in Pittsburgh. His 16th hasn’t started so well.
Published Oct. 15, 2022|Updated Oct. 15, 2022

TAMPA — All streaks eventually come to an end and an incredible string of success is unraveling for Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

The former Bucs assistant, who coached defensive backs from 2001-05, has never had a losing season in Pittsburgh in 15 years and counting.

“It’s unbelievable. I don’t know who else has done that,” Bucs coach Todd Bowles said. “He’s done an outstanding job since he’s been there, as a coach and being a model citizen. (He’s) one of the coaches that I have a lot of respect for in this league (and) truly look up to in that aspect.”

Tomlin won Super Bowl 43 in Tampa, his second season (2008) with the Steelers, and lost Super Bowl 45 two years later to the Packers.

But Tomlin hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2016 season with only three postseason victories in 11 years.

Ben Roethlisberger is retired. The Steelers (1-4) are grooming rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett and have lost four in a row.

In Pittsburgh, some are calling for Tomlin to be stripped of some of his personnel power and for the Rooney family that owns the team to hire a general manager with personnel experience.

Tomlin will likely survive the transition from Roethlisberger but this year’s Steelers are in trouble. Nonetheless, the Bucs have a ton of respect for him, especially from a couple of his former players: Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and co-defensive coordinator Larry Foote.

“Mike is a unique, special guy, that’s all you can really say,” Leftwich said. “I learned so much from him. I can’t have more respect for the coach and the human being than I have for (Tomlin). He’s that unique. It was enjoyable to play for him, it’s motivational to play for him. I know you guys see the interviews. That’s really him. ...

“(He) taught me a lot. I catch myself saying some of his words sometimes as I’m coaching, so that’s how important of a piece he was for me.”

Tomlin said he’s not surprised by Leftwich’s success as an offensive coordinator. “You know when a guy has an aptitude to coach when you coach them,” Tomlin said. “I’ll say this: I’m not surprised at all. He was always a global perspective dude. He could see from outside the helmet. He’s a great idea guy. He’s a natural leader and communicator. But I say the same thing about Larry Foote.”

Foote has a few favorite Tomlin-isms.

“Me and Byron always laugh because you always find yourself saying one of those Mike Tomlin quotes, and since I’m here, I wanted to hit one of them: ‘Well, obviously,’” Foote said. “But, you catch yourself a lot of times: ‘Take them to deep water and let’s drown them’ — and some of the other phrases that just stuck with us.”

A place for analytics

Leading 19-0 last week over the Falcons, Bowles went for a two-point conversion and got it. He wanted to make it a three-touchdown game and the analytics told him it was the right play.

Do you go for it on fourth and 1, the way the Bucs did and failed early in the game? Do you play the percentages or a hunch?

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Bowles says there is a place for analytics as a tool but there is a human element to calculate as well.

“I think it’s both,” Bowles said. “You don’t have it figured out because you don’t know the situation you’re going to be in at the end of the game. You have your analytics part. You have your coaching part. You have the way your team is playing part, so you have to take all of that into consideration and try to make an educated decision.”

Bucs bits

Tom Brady has a 12-3 career mark in the regular season against the Steelers and is 3-0 against them in the playoffs. In 15 regular-season games against Pittsburgh, Brady has passed for 4,450 yards with 34 touchdowns and five interceptions. ... The Bucs have had 687 offensive snaps from rookies this season, the most in the NFC and the second most in the NFL. Guard Luke Goedeke accounts for 337 of those snaps.

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