By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Steelerologist
Gone somewhat under-noticed despite Pittsburgh's 3-0 record is just what a remarkable debut it has been for coach Mike Tomlin.
What a gift the departing Bill Cowher gave Tomlin – a 2005 Super Bowl winner still in its prime, but coming off an 8-8 season that lowered the expectations of the
City and the national "punditry." The Steelers and Tomlin flew right under the radar, and now they're sitting pretty in the NFL elite.
Tomlin must still pinch himself, that he'd be the man in such a right place at the right time.
Of the 3-0 teams, the Patriots are getting the lion's share of the headlines because they're more dominant than Pittsburgh and much sexier. But Tomlin's start in
Pittsburgh is unreal.
Consider that in 15 years with
Pittsburgh, Cowher ripped off a 3-0 start only once. And to complete the circle? It was in his first year, after replacing Chuck Noll, who had left the Steelers in similarly downtrodden spirits.
Not only are the Steelers 3-0, but they've won each game for Tomlin by at least 19 points. In his 15 seasons, how many times did Cowher win three games by 19+ points?
However, he did come damned close in Weeks 13-15 last year, winning three in a row by 17 points or more as the Steelers surged to the wire.
Clearly, the Steelers didn't skip a beat when Cowher left.
Pittsburgh's numbers so far in 2007:
- Yards per play 6.0
- Opp. yards per play 4.3
- Roethlisberger passer rating: 102.9
Their numbers in the Super Bowl season of 2005:
- Yards per play 5.4
- Opp. Yards per play 4.6
- Roethlisberger passer rating 98.6.
And in the 15-1 regular season of 2004
- Yards per play 5.1
- Opp. yards per play 4.7
- Roethlisberger passer rating 98.1
Even allowing for statistical slippage as the 2007 season grinds on, the Steelers are right in their wheelhouse under Tomlin.
And talk of Tomlin "opening up the offense" was just that – talk. In the Steelers three games, they have 108 runs and 81 passes, a 57-43 run ratio that's Steelers football if we've ever heard of it.
Last year, don't forget,
Pittsburgh had 571 pass dropbacks and 469 runs – decidedly un-Cowher-like, and a balance that Roethlisberger paid to the tune of a 75.4 passer rating. When Big Ben gets the chance to make Big Plays on an as-needed basis, he makes them. But he proved in 2006 that the Big Ben show was not a winner in the ratings or on the field.
Tomlin has Roethlisberger back on track, the Steelers re-focused on doing what they do best, and has his hat prominently in the ring for Coach of the Year.
Not bad for a 35-year-old first-time head coach replacing a legend.