The sun sets everywhere, even in paradise.
We are just a few months removed from Ben Roethlisberger’s two-year extension that will take him through the 2021 season.
He said Friday that he plans on playing though 2021 and hasn’t made a firm plan for what happens beyond that. If that’s the end, Roethlisberger has put together quite the career since being selected as the 11th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, a career that will one day see him standing at a podium in Canton, Ohio.
Mike Tomlin will begin his thirteenth season as head coach of the Steelers. In that time span, Tomlin has accomplished quite a few things, such as: Leading his team to six divisional titles, eight post-season births, two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl victory. Tomlin also owns the second-best winning percentage (.645%) of active head coaches with over 50 games coached, behind the one and only Bill Belichick, who owns a cool .685%.
Second best is not acceptable in Pittsburgh, however. Since his last Super Bowl appearance in 2010, Tomlin simply hasn’t been able to rally the troops to the best of his abilities despite possessing some of the league’s top talent down the roster. Tomlin’s future with the organization has been met with great questions as of late, for lack of performance on and off the field. The Steelers have a history of extending head coaches well before their contract is over, and with Tomlin only having two years left on his current deal, many began to speculate Tomlin might be on his way out the door.
The Steelers were able to turn speculation dormant (for the present) on Thursday, as the team announced a one year contract extension for Tomlin that would carry his deal through the 2021 season. Some may debate the purpose of the extension, and perhaps for good reason.
If you wanted Tomlin around for the long-term, why not extend his deal for multiple years? Valid questions surround the intent of the extension even more-so than the actual extension.
Perhaps the Pittsburgh Steelers themselves acknowledge this: The end of an era is coming.
The moment Roethlisberger decides to hang his cleats up, Pittsburgh’s chances of clinching a seventh Lombardi Trophy diminish significantly. The Steelers are well aware of what happens following the departure of a Hall of Fame quarterback. Extending Tomlin’s contract to mirror that of Roethlisberger’s fully indicates the Steelers are all in on the next three seasons.
Dealing Tomlin an extra year on his contract means a handful of things:
First and foremost, Tomlin now understands his work is cut out for him. The failure to win a Super Bowl with talents such as Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown is already attached to his resumé, whether he prefers that or not. However, the failure to win another championship with Roethlisberger before he retires will add another layer of questions to his legacy.
Though superstars have come and gone, Tomlin still has the following to work with: A Hall of Fame passer, a Pro Bowl running back, a Pro Bowl receiver, one of football’s best offensive lines, established defensive players such as Cam Heyward and Joe Haden and young talents like T.J. Watt and Devin Bush.
Players change, expectations don’t. Although celebratory parades are expected to be had every February, Tomlin now essentially has a three year window to cash in on his bets.
While Tomlin will be able to worry about the near future, the organization now has time to evaluate whether or not Tomlin is capable of coaching a football team with no major superstars. The question is not whether Tomlin will be able to coach this Steelers team for another decade (he’s in great health at the young age of 47), but rather if he’s the guy they want leading the charge once the quarterback throne is inherited by another player.
In essence, that is why the one year extension is a minor but pivotal move. Had Tomlin chose to walk a season before Roethlisberger retired, the organization’s plans may have been altered significantly. The extension translates as assurance that the coach/quarterback relationship Tomlin/Roethlisberger share (one of the most important in football) will have the opportunity to gather one more championship before both potentially depart the Steel City.
Should the Steelers not like what they see, they afford themselves the ability to hit the refresh button and enter the 2022 season with not only a new quarterback, but a new head coach as well.