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Can Mike Tomlin Remain King of the North?

April 2021

Under Coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have won 7 out of 14 AFC North Division titles, 3 more than the Ravens, 4 more than the Bengals, and 7 more than the Browns during that time span.  This also includes 2 AFC Conference  Championships, and 1 Super Bowl title.  Tomlin is tied for 3rd most wins, next to Bill Belichick and Andy Reid among active coaches.  He is 2nd, next to Bill Belichick in overall winning percentage.  Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season in 14 years as a NFL head coach.

The Pittsburgh Steelers with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have pretty much been the Kings of the AFC North Division over the past 17 years.  They've won 9 Division Titles, 3 AFC Championship Titles, and 2 Super Bowl Titles.  They've finished no less than 1st or 2nd Place in 16 of his 17 seasons with the Steelers.  After missing most of the 2019 season with an elbow injury, the 2020 season began with promise.  The Steelers started the season 11-0.  However, the Steelers' season collapsed, losing 4 of the final 5 games and an embarrassing 1st round loss in the playoffs to the Cleveland Browns.  Questions started circulating about the play of the Steelers' 39 year-old seasoned quarterback.  Much can be said about the play of the Pittsburgh Steelers during that stretch.  The Steelers still maintain one of the best defenses in the NFL.  During the 2020 season, they lost several key players to injury/sickness, the offensive line was decimated which essentially cancelled any effective run game.  The Pittsburgh Steelers enter the 2021 NFL Season with serious salary cap issues and are expect to lose more key players to free agency.

The Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and Cincinnati Bengals are in a much better salary cap space.  If the quarterback play is an indication of future success, the Browns, Ravens, and Bengals, all have a young Heisman Trophy winning quarterback to lead their teams as compared to a 39 year old Ben Roethlisberger.  The Ravens and Browns have shown to be play-off caliber teams, and the Bengals may be a few key pieces away.  In 2019, Coach Tomlin managed to limp to an 8-8 record, barely missing the playoffs, after the Steelers lost their Hall of Fame QB for the season.  The team was left with two young quarterbacks with no NFL game experience.  Will Coach Tomlin be able work his magic once again with an aging quarterback, losses of several Pro Bowl caliber players on the offense and defense, and a dismal salary cap situation?  Only time will tell.