It’s that time of year when we start talking about who will win the various end of season awards.
Today’s topic is AP NFL Coach of the Year, and it’s pretty much an open and shut case.
Barring a calamity or enormous debacle, Coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers will win it.
It is 2020 so I felt the need to add the calamity and debacle disclaimer.
Here’s why he will win.
1. The Steelers Worst Possible Record Is 11-5, and That Won’t Happen.
Right now, they are at 11-0.
So they end up 11-5 if they go on a 5 game losing streak.
That’s not going to happen.
With Washington, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Cleveland as the final five opponents, at worst they should go 3-2.
That puts them at 14-2; nobody else can match that record with the exception of the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
There really still is a chance they could go undefeated and finish 16-0.
How does this relate to Tomlin being Coach of the Year?
Well, he’s coached them beautifully to get to 11-0 so they are positioned well to win the AFC North and can edge out Kansas City for the first-round bye and home-field advantage.
He’s kept them grounded, humble, and striving for more especially after the Ravens game that put them at 11-0.
Mike Tomlin on reason why offense dropped so many passes, struggled in the red zone.
"Us sucking." #Steelers
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) December 2, 2020
Mike Tomlin: "To be bluntly honest, I'm really disappointed in our performance tonight. It was junior varsity. IN all three phases."
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) December 2, 2020
After going 10-0, Tomlin coined the phrase.
“It wasn’t perfect, but nothing is perfect about us except our record.”
2. COVID-19, Enough Said.
The Steelers managed to get to 11-0 despite having their schedule turned upside down.
First, they had a Week 4 unexpected bye because of the outbreak that affected the Tennessee Titans.
Then, they waited 6 days to play the Thanksgiving game against the Ravens.
That delay put them in the unenviable position of playing 3 games in a 12 day span.
After the Steelers beat the Ravens on Wednesday, Tomlin gave them a few hours off and reconvened them the same night to watch film on the Washington Football Team.
Ben Roethlisberger: “We have a couple hours and then we have our second game, a double header, whatever we have.”
This is gold. pic.twitter.com/YOq4AzB7gx
— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) December 3, 2020
Mike Tomlin: "It's a short [week] for us. A long one for Washington. We don't seek comfort. We realize Washington doesn't care about our problems. They're glad we have them."
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) December 3, 2020
He’s earned Coach of the Year for managing a team’s practice schedule and preparation in the midst of all the chaos around them.
3. Big Ben Is Back.
There were so many question marks about the Steelers in the COVID-19 abbreviated preseason.
We hadn’t seen Ben Roethlisberger since he tore three tendons off of the elbow bone in mid September 2019.
The injury was a tough one to come back from especially at 38 years of age.
11 games into the season, Big Ben has 25 TDs, 6 INTs, and has only been sacked 10 times.
Tomlin’s scheme and offensive line are doing a brilliant job of protecting Ben who is notoriously sacked more than he should be.
Consider the fact that in his 17th year of regular season play, Ben has been sacked 513 times.
By comparison, in Tom Brady‘s 21st year of regular season play, he has been sacked 516 times.
Protecting Ben and allowing him to play great football is yet another reason why Tomlin will be the recipient of AP NFL Coach of the Year honors.
It’s hard to believe that Coach Tomlin has never received the award before, but the last Steeler to earn it was Bill Cowher in 1992 when the Steelers went 11-5.
That’s about to change in 2020.