In 1969, the Steelers hired 37-year-old Chuck Noll to help turn around the franchise. The Steelers have hired just two other coaches since hiring Noll: Bill Cowher (1992) and Mike Tomlin (2007). Over that span, Pittsburgh has won six Super Bowls, eight conference titles and 24 division titles. Noll has a bronze bust in Canton, Ohio, and Cowher will have his bust enshrined in the Hall of Fame this summer. Tomlin, who signed a three-year extension on Tuesday, will likely one day join them in football immortality.
The 49-year-old coach -- a Super Bowl-winning assistant with the Buccaneers before going to Pittsburgh -- guided the Steelers to their most recent Super Bowl win, a 27-23 win over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Additionally, Tomlin's teams have claimed two AFC titles and seven division titles during his first 14 years on the job. Tomlin's .650 winning percentage is eighth in NFL history among coaches that have won at least 100 games. Tomlin's 14 consecutive non-losing seasons to begin a career is tied for the longest streak in league history.
While Tomlin has already etched his name in the record books, here's a look at a few other franchise and league milestones he will likely hit over the next four seasons. We'll also examine what Tomlin's extension likely means for his coaching legacy.
If the Steelers can go at least 8-8-1 this season, Tomlin will pass Marty Schottenheimer and take sole possession of first place on the all-time list of most non-losing seasons to begin an NFL head coaching career. Tomlin has a ways to go to get the record for most consecutive non-losing seasons overall, however. That record is held by former Cowboys coach Tom Landry, who posted 21 straight non-losing seasons from 1965-85.
Tomlin is currently tied with Pete Carroll for 21st all-time in regular season wins. Assuming he continues to average just over 10 wins per season, Tomlin will be knocking on the door of the top 10 for all-time wins by the time his current contract expires. Notable coaches Tomlin will likely pass on the all-time wins list over the next four years include Cowher and fellow Hall of Famers Joe Gibbs, Bud Grant, and Bill Parcells. Tomlin will also likely pass fellow Super Bowl winning coaches Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan and Tom Coughlin.
Franchise record for wins
Tomlin's 145 regular season wins are four behind Cowher and 48 behind Noll for the franchise record. If his teams average 12 wins per season, Tomlin will match Noll's regular season tally during his final season under contract. While that's a pretty daunting number, the NFL's addition of a 17th game should help Tomlin in his climb up the franchise record book.
Tomlin's 153 total wins are eight behind Cowher and 56 behind Noll. Assuming that the 2021 Steelers can continue Tomlin's tradition of non-losing seasons, he will pass Cowher at some point during the upcoming season. Tomlin would have to win the Super Bowl as wild card team, however, to match Cowher's postseason win total (12) during the 2021 season. Tomlin is currently halfway towards Noll's tally of 16 postseason wins.
Franchise division titles
Tomlin is one division title away from tying Cowher for second in franchise history. Cowher began his career with five division crowns during his first six seasons on the sideline. He won two more in 2001 and in 2004. His 2004 Steelers won a franchise-record 15 games, a record that has has not been threatened in the years since. Tomlin's teams won three AFC North titles during his first four seasons. They added to the franchise's division title tally in 2014, '16, '17 and in '20.
Noll, the coach who won the Steelers' first division title in 1972, remains in first franchise history with nine division crowns. Noll's teams won six consecutive AFC Central division titles from 1974-79. Pittsburgh won four Super Bowls during that span; they also became the first and only team in league history to win back-to-back Supers Bowls twice.
Tomlin's nine playoff appearances are tied for 17th in NFL history. He's one playoff appearance away from tying Cowher and three away from matching Noll, who guided the Steelers to a dozen playoff appearances. If he can clinch four more playoff berths, Tomlin would become the 10th coach in league history to reach double-digit postseason appearances. He would join Noll, Landry, Holmgren, Grant, Schottenheimer, Don Shula, Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, and Paul Brown on that esteemed list.
Super Bowl wins
With another Super Bowl win, Tomlin would become the 14th head coach to win multiple Super Bowls. Noll, Belichick, Landry, Shula, Gibbs, Parcells, Shanahan, Coughlin, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, George Seifert, Tom Flores and Jimmy Johnson are the only head coaches in NFL history to multiple Super Bowls. All but three of these coaches are members of the Hall of Fame. As far as current coaches are concerned, Tomlin is one of just nine coaches to win one Super Bowl. Tomlin, Belichick, Carroll and Reid are the only active head coaches to coach in multiple Super Bowls.
Super Bowl appearances
With another Super Bowl appearance, Tomlin would become the 11th head coach to reach at least three Super Bowls. The list also includes Dan Reeves (four), Belichick (nine appearances), Shula (six), Landry (five), Noll (four), Marv Levy (four), Gibbs (four), Walsh (three), Parcells (three) and Holmgren (three). Another Super Bowl berth would put Tomlin one appearance behind Noll in Steelers history. Noll posted a perfect 4-0 record while guiding Pittsburgh to wins in Super Bowls IX, X, XIII and XIV.
What does this mean for Tomlin's legacy?
"The standard is the standard" is one of Tomlin's famous lines. The quote is a homage to the standard Noll, former Steelers president Dan Rooney and Hall of Fame defensive tackle Joe Greene helped institute in 1969. The standard is championships, a bar Noll's teams hit four times in the '70s. Cowher's team reached the standard in 2005, and Tomlin's Steelers followed suit in 2008.
While Tomlin's one Super Bowl win does not measure up to some of the great coaches of the past, he's coaching in a significantly different era, where the salary cap and free agency makes it nearly impossible to have longterm continuity on a roster. Today's coaching challenges make Tomlin's non-losing streak all the more impressive, as the Steelers have consistently been in playoff contention during his decade-plus in Pittsburgh. That achievement should not be overlooked.
Today's coaches will be measured differently from previous eras. That was made clear when Cowher -- another one-time Super Bowl winner -- was immortalized in Canton. It's clear that today's Hall of Fame voters look at the overall body of work, and not just Super Bowl wins, when deciding a coach's candidacy. With that in mind, Tomlin is already probably done enough to one day have his own Hall of Fame bust. Even without another Super Bowl win, Tomlin is and will be considered one of the best coaches of his era.
That being said, Tomlin probably needs another Super Bowl win to be truly considered as the greatest coaches of all-time, not just in his era. And while the task of winning a Super Bowl is more challenging than ever, it's a challenge Tomlin readily accepts.
"We have a goal of winning the organization's seventh Super Bowl championship," Tomlin said on Tuesday, "and I couldn't be more enthusiastic about this upcoming season."