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PFF Ranks Mike Tomlin Fifth-Best Returning Head Coach in NFL

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Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Tomlin

In a recent ranking by Gordon McGuinness of Pro Football Focus, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was tabbed the fifth-best returning head coach entering the 2024 season.

Many would point to the seven-year playoff drought to discredit Tomlin, but the Steelers really haven’t been set up for playoff success over the last five years. Tomlin has overachieved with his units. I mean, he mustered a 10-7 season and a wild-card playoff appearance with Kenny Pickett, Mitch Trubisky and Mason Rudolph throwing a combined 13 touchdowns.

In the last three years, the Steelers have had regular-season point differentials of -55, -38 and -20. The Steelers had winning seasons in all three years and made the playoffs twice.

“The Steelers haven’t won a playoff game in T.J. Watt’s career, which isn’t great considering that he’s heading into his eighth season in the NFL in 2024. That being said, if you look at what Tomlin has had at the quarterback position over the past five seasons, even getting to the playoffs is a huge accomplishment,” McGuinness wrote. “The Steelers didn’t have a quarterback earn a PFF passing grade above 70.0 in 2023. Kenny Pickett was the best of the bunch at 68.8. With Russell Wilson and Justin Fields arriving this offseason, there’s a big opportunity for the Steelers to finally make an impact in the playoffs once again.”

Pittsburgh Steelers HC Mike Tomlin

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin during OTAs on May 21, 2024. — Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

Ahead of Tomlin in the rankings were Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams, John Harbaugh of the Baltimore Ravens, Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers and three-time Super Bowl champion Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Tomlin at No. 5 seems about right. I think it’s hard to disagree with that. Matt LaFleur and Dan Campbell have had more recent playoff success, but the sample size is probably too small to leap Tomlin in the rankings.

Tomlin received a three-year contract extension earlier this month. He’s reportedly one of the highest-paid coaches in the NFL.

Steelers president Art Rooney II still has confidence that Tomlin is the right person for the job.

“The players still respond to Mike and that’s No. 1,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said in January. “He still has the key characteristics that we saw when we hired him. He can keep the attention of a group of 20-year-olds for a whole season and keep them in the fight the whole way. Still feel good about Mike. Obviously, if I didn’t, we’d make change. If we didn’t think Mike was able to lead us to a championship, he wouldn’t be here. That’s why he’s here.”