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Gerry Dulac: 3-year extension shows Steelers never plan to part with Mike Tomlin

Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Football

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers' decision to give Mike Tomlin another three-year contract extension is just another indication they have no intention of ever moving on from their head coach, no matter how many years he goes without a playoff victory or what the fans think.

It isn't even a matter for discussion anymore.

Or so it would appear.

Since the Steelers' most recent playoff victory in 2016, a period in which they have gone 0-5 in the postseason, Tomlin has been given three contract extensions. But here's the best part: The extensions aren't getting shorter. They're getting longer.

The three-year extension announced Monday, which will take him at least through the 2027 season, comes on the heels of a three-year extension Tomlin was awarded after the 2021 season. Those extensions are the largest he has been given since he was hired in 2007.

Make no mistake, the length of those extensions does not show any quarrel with the performance of the head coach. Nor are they any indication the franchise is growing impatient with the repeated postseason failure of the team.

At least when Tomlin was given a one-year extension with a one-year option before the 2019 season, it gave the appearance that somebody — either the Steelers or Tomlin — was not committed to a long-term arrangement. When the Steelers went 8-8 and missed the playoffs in 2019, it was reasonable for the public to surmise that maybe Tomlin might be on some type of proverbial hot seat.

But even when they were embarrassingly eliminated at home by the Cleveland Browns in a 2020 wild card game, it didn't seem to matter. The Steelers gave him the first of his back-to-back three-year extensions because, team president Art Rooney II said, they finished 12-4 and won the AFC North title.

Now this.

 

After Mason Rudolph had to be summoned to win their final three games and save the 2023 season, the Steelers lost their fifth consecutive postseason game, this time in Buffalo. That prompted Rooney to declare his impatience and say it's time to start winning playoff games.

It would not have been unreasonable to exercise some of that same impatience with a shorter extension for Tomlin, similar to the two-year bumps he used to get — if for no other reason to hold everyone, including the head coach, accountable.

Despite being the longest-tenured coach in the NFL, Tomlin is not the highest paid. But he is right near the top, at approximately $11 million to $12 million annually. And he will continue to stay there as long as he desires.

At the end of this latest three-year extension, Tomlin will have been with the Steelers for 21 seasons, just two shy of Chuck Noll's record stay with the team. Even if he averages just seven victories in each of the next three seasons, Tomlin (173) will surpass Noll (193) in career victories.

Tomlin has as many Super Bowl appearances (2) and victories (1) as his predecessor, Bill Cowher, who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It is probably a safe bet Tomlin will end up there, too, given the way he continues to climb the list of career victory leaders. Only Andy Reid (258) has more victories among active coaches. Tomlin is fifth among all coaches with at least 140 wins in career winning percentage (.633).

That is why Rooney will continue to extend his head coach, who turned 52 in March, no matter how long the playoff-winning drought continues.

At least, that is the message the length of the extensions continues to send.


(c)2024 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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