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If the Steelers Followed the Penguins, They’d Fire Tomlin



Photos courtesy of Dan4th Nicholas, Andy, Michael Miller, Steel City Hobbies used under creative commons license CC BY 2.0 and CC BY 4.0; Image by Joseph Steigerwald

The Steelers could go to school on the Penguins.

If they did, that might be bad news for Mike Tomlin. Since the Steelers loss – at home – to the Jaguars on Sunday, there has been a lot of social media and talk show discussion about it being time for the Steelers to get a new coach.

Everybody knows the Steelers don’t like to change coaches and there’s no reason to believe that they will now when they have the guy who has the second highest winning percentage in the NFL the last 10 years.

The Penguins have had more head coaches in the last 12 years than the Steelers have had in the last 52 years.

And everybody knows that NHL coaches are more expendable than NFL coaches, but the Penguins have won more championships in the last nine years than the Steelers have won in their last 39.

Would the Penguins have won three Stanley Cups since 2009 if Michel Therrien were still the coach?

The Penguins fired Therrien in February 2009 with only 25 regular season games left. He had taken the Penguins to the Stanley Cup Final nine months earlier.

Tomlin’s defenders like to tell you that you can’t fire a coach who’s one year removed from playing in the conference championship. And they’ll tell you that there’s no shame in losing to a franchise like the New England Patriots.

Using the Detroit Red Wings to make that same argument obviously didn’t work for Therien. And he won a conference championship.

Interestingly enough, Therrien’s downfall may have been that he was too demanding and had no interest in being a friend to the players.

The biggest criticism of Tomlin is that the ship he runs isn’t tight enough.

Then there is Dan Bylsma. I think most people would agree that the Penguins kept him around for at least one season too many.

He coached the Penguins for 25 games in the regular season and went on to beat the Red Wings for the Stanley Cup in 2009.

The next season, he finished second in the division and lost to the Montreal Canadiens four games to three in the second round – a gigantic underachievement.

In 2011 the Penguins made the playoffs without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. Still, doubts about Bylsma’s coaching ability began to surface because they blew a three games to one lead.

In 2011-2012 Bylsma’s team won 51 games and won a division championship. They embarrassed themselves, the franchise and most likely Mario Lemieux by having a total meltdown and losing to the Flyers, of all people, in six games.

That’s when Bylsma should have been fired, but he got another chance. The Penguins won their division again and went all the way to the conference final and were swept by the Boston Bruins.

They scored two goals in the four games.

It was the football equivalent of losing in the AFC Championship game.

Of course the Penguins couldn’t fire Bylsma after making it to the Eastern Conference Final.

Tomlin got another shot after losing the AFC Championship game  loss and went 13-3 this season and then did the equivalent of  getting bounced out in the first round.

One year after going to the Eastern Conference Final, Bylsma’s team won 51 games and then lost to the Rangers four games to three in the second round  after blowing a 3-1 lead.

He was fired and so was the General Manager, Ray Shero.

Kind of like the Steelers firing Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert this week, right?

The Penguins made a big mistake when they hired Mike Johnston and they were willing to admit that when they fired him in December of 2015, even though his team was 15-10-3,  and hired the guy who still hasn’t lost a playoff series and has won two Stanley Cups.

The Steelers would have a hard time justifying firing Tomlin when Bill Belichick is the only coach in the league who has won more often in the last 12 years, but Tomlin should be thankful that the Steelers don’t have the same expectations for their head coaches that the Penguins have.

If they did, he’d be out of a job right now.

Ask Dan Bylsma.

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John has over 40 years experience doing just about everything you can do in Pittsburgh sports, including work at KDKA (TV and Radio), WTAE, the Tribune-Review and many more. Author of Just Watch The Game. Columnist and opinion writer here and at Pittsburgh Sports Now. You can regularly find John on Twitter and Facebook.

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