The Pittsburgh Steelers enter 2021 with a lot of unanswered questions.
Even before the lengthy and thus far nonproductive contract negotiations with linebacker T.J. Watt went astray, there were issues to deal with.
How the team fares this season will have a lot to do with how all of these issues are resolved.
If things go badly, could coach Mike Tomlin be on the hot seat?
Yes, he could, and here is why.
What Happened In 2020 Still Lingers
The Steelers raced out to an 11-0 record in 2020 and looked unstoppable.
Then, the team hit a brick wall, and they never regained their composure.
Losing two weeks in a row to their divisional rival Cleveland Browns is still hard to believe.
Perhaps the first loss could be excused because a lot of the starters rested as it was the last game of the regular season.
Whether the Steelers won or loss was immaterial.
However, the Wild Card playoff loss is still difficult to understand.
It was a lopsided, devastating beatdown from the start of the game.
Did Tomlin not have his guys prepared?
Could they have taken the Browns too lightly?
As the head coach, he does not play the games, but his preparation for his players has to be questioned.
Mike Tomlin has to go
5 (one and dones) in 9 Playoff appearances.
A 8-8 career Playoff record for Mike Tomlin.
3-6 last 9
12 years since winning super bowl 43
10 years since playing in Super Bowl 45
Since starting season 11-0
Steelers would finish: 1-5#FireTomlin
— 🦄🇵🇷 Zoltan Warrkation🎮🐨 (@Warrkation_) January 11, 2021
Steelers Have Not Won Lately
The Steelers pride themselves on a long legacy of winning teams.
However, the last time the Steelers won a Super Bowl was in his second season as the Steelers head coach.
That was back in 2008.
Some would argue that he was riding on Coach Bill Cowher‘s coattails at that point.
The Steelers were the AFC champions in 2010 but lost in the Super Bowl to the Green Bay Packers.
For a franchise priding itself on winning Super Bowl championships, the results have not been as plentiful as many expected during Tomlin’s tenure.
Since 2011, Mike Tomlin has a 3-7 playoff record, including home losses to CLE and JAC.
— Jt ⁰ (@HunchoJt__) August 31, 2021
Since reaching Super Bowl 45, Mike Tomlin's Steelers are 3-6 in the playoffs with losses to Tim Tebow, Joe Flacco, Washed Peyton Manning, Blake Bortles and a Baker Mayfield Browns team decimated by COVID.
— Trenton Jocz (@TrentonJocz) January 11, 2021
Team Could Want To Go In A New Direction
Coach Tomlin has been the head coach of the Steelers since 2007.
In an NFL where players and coaches tend to get brief opportunities to make the most of, he had years to lead this team to winning more Lombardi Trophies.
He has not done it, and at some point, the Steelers will want to go in a new direction.
That could very well be after the 2021 season if things do not go well for the Steelers.
They are in an increasingly competitive AFC North division that features rising teams like the Browns and Cincinnati Bengals.
Winning the AFC North is no longer a foregone conclusion.
Even if the Steelers win it, they can be assured that at least one or two of their AFC North rivals could earn playoff berths also.
Even if the Watt situation gets rectified sooner rather than later, Tomlin has to deal with the fallout of it as well as the other issues facing this team.
The Steelers have a challenging schedule so their performance this season could determine Tomlin’s fate in 2022 and beyond.