Mike Tomlin has been awarded the honor of being named the 2015 AFC North Coach of the Year, as determined by NFL Nation reporters from ESPN. The Pittsburgh Steelers head coach was the clear choice according to the committee of four, though there were realistically only two options: Tomlin, and Cincinnati Bengals' head coach Marvin Lewis. Tomlin got the nod by virtue of the Steelers advancing further in the postseason than their division-rival Bengals. Ironically, it was Pittsburgh who ended Cincinnati's season thanks to that notoriously memorable Wild Card game in January.
Mike Tomlin was able to keep the Steelers' ship afloat, despite facing major adversity throughout the 2015 season. Tomlin and his staff were constantly forced to look to their bench when a rash of injuries struck some of the team's best players and leaders. Maurkice Pouncey, considered arguably the best center in the NFL, missed the entire season after suffering a broken left fibula in the preseason. Le'Veon Bell, a consensus top three running back in football entering the year, was suspended the first two games of the season and only played in four after that when a knee injury cost him the rest of 2015. And then of course there's Ben Roethlisberger. Tomlin witnessed his team's quarterback miss four regular-season games -- and the Steelers still made the playoffs.
Only four teams in the AFC had a better record than Mike Tomlin's Steelers: The Bengals, Patriots, Broncos, and Chiefs. To be fair, and to give credit where it's due, the Bengals and Broncos both dealt with injuries to their starting quarterbacks and still persevered to qualify for postseason play. But the Steelers did it with three. Landry Jones and Michael Vick both were forced into duty at times when Roethlisberger went down. But Big Ben gutted it out in the playoffs, playing in the Divisional Round despite suffering a shoulder injury in the Wild Card round against Cincy.
Once the dust settled on the Steelers' 2015 season, Mike Tomlin was able to reflect on the year, and though he was proud of the team's accomplishments, he was sincere that it didn't meet its ultimate goal, and wouldn't use the injuries as an excuse. Here is a portion of those comments, as covered by the team's official website.
"I'm disappointed and that's just an honest answer. I think we all are. We appreciate the support that we get from others, the acknowledgment of the fight and all of that. But, we go into the journey with that understanding, that it's going to be difficult, that's it's going to be a fight, that a fight is going to be required. We appreciate the support but at the same time we set out to be world champion. That was our goal. We meant it. It's not us this year, so there's disappointment associated with that."[Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]