The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently concocted some alarmist speculation that the Pittsburgh Steelers may decline to extend Mike Tomlin's contract beyond the 2010 season.
According to the Trib, the problem might be that Tomlin won Super Bowl XLIII with former Coach Bill Cowher's squad, and that this somehow taints the achievement. Bringing back inside linebacker Larry Foote and cornerback Bryant McFadden, former Steelers who were dismissed under Tomlin, might be an attempt to undo personnel missteps of the past. And Cowher never had to sweat it out during a contract year; the Rooney family always extended his deal when it had two years left. There might be conflicts in offensive and defensive philosophies between the Steeler way of doing things - whatever that is - and Tomlin's way.
Never mind that Tomlin had to put in a year with the team before winning XLIII, unlike former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden, who produced a championship in his first year - basically with Tony Dungy's entire squad. Or that Tomlin (and Gruden, for that matter!) still had to coach that (admittedly talented) roster week in and week out. Never mind that Lawrence Timmons, a talented young player drafted under Tomlin's watch who has yet to hit his peak, succeeded Foote, expediting the aging linebacker's departure to the Detroit Lions. Never mind that Tomlin brought Foote back for depth. Or that reacquiring McFadden on the cheap - instead of paying the free agent a ton of money, as the Arizona Cardinals did - was a shrewd move, plain and simple.
Never mind that the Cowher situation has almost no bearing whatsoever on the present circumstances; for one thing, there's a different Rooney in charge now. Never mind that upon his arrival, Tomlin preserved Pittsburgh's vaunted 3-4 defensive scheme, despite his success running the 4-3 as defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, not because he was some mindless fetishist bowing to "Steeler football," but because it was the right fit for the personnel. Never mind that he and general manager Kevin Colbert have continued to to draft and develop 3-4 personnel, including an inside linebacker who excels in coverage over the middle (Timmons), a dominant hybrid pass rusher (LaMarr Woodley), and a young, beefy defensive end to close running lanes (Ziggy Hood). Never mind that the shift over the last few seasons from a run-based offense to more of a spread attack reflected the special talents of Roethlisberger and the vast array of viable targets - Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Heath Miller, Mike Wallace, Mewelde Moore - at the quarterback's disposal.
Never mind that the Steelers may not be in a hurry to extend Tomlin's contract just yet, simply because they'd rather not dominate the headlines anymore than they already have, given the way their quarterback has dragged the franchise's reputation through the mud. Or that extending the head coach during the Roethlisberger fallout would seem, well, weird - potentially just another reason for the press to dissect the quarterback's extracurricular activities. Never mind that the front office might be anticipating a middling season from a squad that is out its star quarterback for at least four weeks and must contend with two division foes who look very good (Bengals) and downright great (Ravens). Never mind that in the event of such a subpar season, some digits could be trimmed from Tomlin's price tag.
And of course, never mind Tomlin's .646 winning percentage over his first three regular seasons. Oh, or that Lombardi thing he won that one time.