Most people would say that a coach who has been to two Super Bowls in a span of three seasons (2008-10), winning one, and turning an 0-4 start in 2013 into an 8-8 finish, nearly making the playoffs, would be safe from the NFL coaching hot seat, but after two sub-par seasons and numerous off-field incidents, the coaching seat for Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin is starting to heat up. The thought of Tomlin’s job being in question may be ridiculous to some considering that the Steelers have only had three head coaches since 1969, but the pressure is starting to build towards Tomlin following back-to-back .500 seasons and off-field issues surrounding his players.
Since being hired to replace Bill Cowher in 2007, Tomlin has had great success in his time with the Steelers, most of that coming in his earlier years with a majority of Cowher’s players. You can’t take away anything from what Tomlin has accomplished up to this point, but his lack of success in the past two seasons and the sharp decline in talent from the past two seasons has some fans and experts wondering how many more seasons he will be given to turn things around.
Under Tomlin’s watch, the Steelers’ draft classes have gone from good to mediocre to poor. Along with a clear decrease in talent, there has been a decrease in wins. After defeating the Arizona Cardinals 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII, the Steelers played in Super Bowl XLV two years later and lost to the Green Bay Packers 31-25. They followed their Super Bowl defeat with a wildcard round loss to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. In the next two seasons, the Steelers posted back-to-back 8-8 seasons with no playoff appearances.
The last time the Steelers missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons was a three-year stretch from 1998 to 2000 under Cowher. For an organization like the Steelers, which has been known to be Super Bowl contenders year in and year out, this recent stretch of losing is unacceptable, even for the most die-hard of Steelers fans.
The road back to the playoffs this season won’t get any easier for Pittsburgh as they will have two very good AFC North contenders in the Baltimore Ravens, who won Super Bowl XLVII just two seasons ago, and the Cincinnati Bengals, who have been back-to-back AFC North Champions. Making this journey even more difficult is the fact that Tomlin is slowly starting to lose his team.
Just yesterday, running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount, a free-agent acquisition who has been known to be a locker room cancer, were charged with marijuana possession with Bell also receiving a DUI charge. This incident, along with center Maurkice Pouncey‘s recent battery charge for assaulting nightclub patrons, suggests that players are either ignoring their coach or that Tomlin’s message is starting to get old.
I still think that Tomlin is among the top head coaches in the NFL, but if the Steelers’ locker room continues to self-destruct and the win total doesn’t improve quickly, the Steelers will be looking for a new coach much sooner than they really want to.
Brian Kalchik is a Detroit Lions writer for RantSports.com. He also adds to the site’s NBA, NCAA Football, Fantasy and NFL content. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google+.