In Week 6, Mike Tomlin proved again why he’s the best coach in football

Pittsburgh Steelers

Even though they might only have a 2-4 record, Mike Tomlin has done a marvelous job as the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach these last five weeks.

It wasn’t pretty in the slightest, but that won’t be the narrative for the 2019 NFL season for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After getting the living snot beaten out of them in Week 1’s shellacking at the hands of the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh saw its franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger succumb to a season-ending elbow injury in Week 2’s home loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

At 0-2 and starting a second-year quarterback in Mason Rudolph, things were looking incredibly bleak for the Steelers. But through perseverance and sheer determination, the Steelers have clawed their way back to 2-4 on the year after an 0-2 start.

Frankly, they should have a better record than they have with chances to win all but one of their six games this season. 2-4 isn’t a ton to brag about, but we have to give credit where it is due. Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is putting on a coaching clinic for handle cluster injuries at the most important position on the gridiron: quarterback.

Week 5 saw the Steelers lose second-string quarterback Rudolph to a concussion suffered on a hit from Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas for the ball game. It was a frightening moment, as Rudolph had to be helped off the field. But the game had to go on.

Enter third-stringer Devlin Hodges, who played at FCS Samford, who helped guide the Steelers to overtime, where they would wind up losing to archrival Baltimore, 26-23. At 1-4, Hodges would have to make his first career start on Sunday Night Football on the road in Carson, California against future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers.

For a few weeks there, the Chargers had the feel of a playoff contender in the AFC. But after falling to the visiting Steelers at home, both clubs are now 2-4 with Pittsburgh having the head-to-head tiebreaker. Against all odds, Pittsburgh defeated Los Angeles 24-17 to stay alive in the AFC North.

I realize that going into Dignity Health Sports Park is the furthest thing from a raucous road environment. With the number of Terrible Towels slinging among the 20,000-plus in attendance, you’d be shocked if it wasn’t at least an 80-20 crowd split in Pittsburgh’s favor. Regardless, to win convincingly on the road in primetime with a third-string quarterback is simply remarkable.

Last season saw the Steelers miss out on the AFC Playoffs thanks to the chaos surrounding the players in the locker room, or who used to be in the locker room. Former Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell’s season-long holdout was well documented but gave way to the James Conner era in the Pittsburgh backfield. Conner continues to play well, while Bell is with the New York Jets.

Of course, who could forget about the NFL’s biggest headache in All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown? We thought that Brown had taken completed control of Tomlin’s locker room. Turns out, Tomlin was doing the lord’s work in keeping the talented receiving nuisance in check. The Oakland Raiders had no shot at holding Brown accountable. New England gave up after a week of his crap.

So to go from all the locker room nonsense of the last two years to a complete devolution in the quarterback room to where Hodges has to start on the road in primetime in Week 6 because the only other option was Paxton Lynch and to still get a win over the Chargers is why Tomlin is a top-four head coach in the NFL today and is likely going to end up with a bust in Canton, Ohio.

Tomlin has been scrutinized so much in recent years for the looseness of his football team, a team that would often play down to its competition on the road and not look buttoned up. But on this fine Sunday night, Tomlin proved all of his critics wrong. The guy can flat-out coach and it took a concerted team effort to beat the Chargers in Los Angeles. That’s what we call being buttoned up.

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