There will be no shortage of material when the case is made for Mike Tomlin winning NFL Coach of the Year. Backup quarterback, practice squad quarterback, rookie running back, an inexperienced receiving core, it does not matter who the Pittsburgh Steelers send out there, Tomlin and his team will find a way to get it done. The Steelers have faced some incredible odds this season and have typically found a way to overcome them, especially at Heinz Field.
The odds set upon the Steelers on Sunday were perhaps one of the tallest they have faced this season. With a third string quarterback and without their top running back and receiver, the Steelers needed to find a way to defeat a red-hot Cleveland Browns’ team that had won three in a row. Well, for the second time in a month, the Steelers managed to emerge victorious at home despite their underdog status.
Results when the Steelers have been underdogs this season:
Vs Browns (-2.0): Steelers win 20-13
Vs Rams (-4.0): Steelers win 17-12
Vs Ravens (-3.5): Steelers lose 26-23 OT
Nothing will fire a team up like their home crowd and nothing will upset a crowd worse than a team underachieving at home. Both sides have held up their end of the bargain as the Steelers have won their last two contests at home as underdogs, one against the streaking Browns and the other against last season’s NFC Champions, the Los Angeles Rams.
Few outside of Pittsburgh believed the Steelers had a chance in either of these games but on both occasions, Tomlin was able to hold the fort down and put some impressive wins on his resume. Four weeks ago, his team defeated the Rams to put the finishing touches on a four-game win streak that would put the Steelers in a playoff position for the first time all season.
On Sunday, it was another masterclass as Tomlin’s team limited a Browns’ offense that had scored 10 quick points to just 96 yards and three points in the second half. With all the attention focused on t-shirts, helmets and the general bad blood between the two teams, the Steelers’ coach was able to maintain his team’s focus and make a few key second half adjustments to win.
While there no official stat or credit given for “should have won” games, the Steelers’ lone loss as a home underdog, which came against the Baltimore Ravens, was a testament to the fight this team would continue to bring. Against a team led by MVP candidate Lamar Jackson, the Steelers were arguably one fumble and one questionable roughing the passer penalty away from another huge upset victory. Despite being almost four-point underdogs, the defense held Jackson to his worst performance of the season as he threw three interceptions.
The Steelers have now been underdogs at home 15 times under Tomlin and they hold an impressive 9-6 record in those contests. Eight of those contests have come without the availability of Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers have held even in those games, with a 4-4 record.
Times the Steelers have been underdogs at home without Ben Roethlisberger since 2007
2019 Vs Browns (-2.0): Steelers win 20-13
2019 Vs Rams (-4.0): Steelers win 17-12
2019 Vs Ravens (-3.5): Steelers lose 26-23 OT
2016 Vs Patriots (-7.5): Steelers lose 27-16
2015 Vs Cardinals (-3.5): Steelers win 25-13
2015 Vs Ravens (-2.5): Steelers lose 23-20 OT
2012 Vs Ravens (-3.0): Steelers lose 13-10
2010 Vs Falcons (-1.5): Steelers win 15-9 OT
Only one of the four losses were decided by more than one score. Counted out, no chance, underdogs – the narrative does not matter, the Steelers have always come out to play and put on a fight in front of their home crowd and while a certain amount of praise should be given to the defense, make sure to leave some praise for the coach as well.
A coach’s main job is to get his players to perform, no matter what obstacle lay in front of them and Tomlin has surely gotten his team to perform at their highest level this season, especially in front of their home crowd.