Watch Tower: Steelers OTAs End – Tomlin’s Contract Status Moves to Center Stage

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has two years remaining on the contract he signed in 2007. The Steelers unofficial policy has been to renew the contract with their head coach at exactly this point.

With the off season heading into the home stretch Tomlin neither has an extension, nor have any reports surfaced that the two sides are negotiating towards one.

Readers of the Post-Gazette and Tribune Review can be excused if they’ve concluded that Tomlin’s non-extension is a done deal.

Tomlin may very well not get that extension before the regular season begins, but until that happens Steelers Nation should be skeptical of reports to that effect.

Idle Speculation from the Steel City?

As Steelers OTA’s drew to a close, attention early in the week, before the news of the Roethlisberger DVD’s and TV interviews broke, began focusing on Tomlin’s contract status.

First to weigh in was the Tribune Review’s John Harris.

As Steel Curtain Rising has suggested before, John Harris either has a bone to pick with Mike Tomlin or else he knows he can generate page views by chopping the youngest Super Bowl Champion coach off at the knees.

Harris takes a more level tone with Tomlin this time around, both extolling Tomlin’s record while stoking doubts about Tomlin.

Reasons why he doubts the Steelers will sign Tomlin to an extension are as follows:

  • They didn’t extend his contract after Super Bowl XLIII
  • Larry Foote and Bryant McFadden returned after having lost starting jobs under Tomlin
  • Art II’s edict to improve the running game and some supposed philosophical difference that have emerged with Dick LeBeau

Harris’ observations are reasonable but can none the less be answered, as seen below

  • The Steelers have clear and well-established contract negotiation policies, there is no reason to think they would deviate from them following Super Bowl XLIII
  • Tomlin did not want to lose Foote and McFadden in the first place
  • LeBeau and Tomlin have twice had the number one defense working together
  • And Tomlin may already be grooming Randy Fichtner as Arians’ replacement with his decision to promote Fichtner to quarterback’s coach

All of this amounts nothing more than speculation, which puts Steel Curtain Rising on par with John Harris, as the erstwhile sports editor of the Tribune-Review reports no new news, nor does he cite any on the record or off the record sources “close to Tomlin, the Steelers, an agent, or even a South Side dog catcher who claims to be privy to an inside scoop.”

That’s a shame, because Steel Curtain Rising is 6,000 miles away from the story whereas Harris sits in the middle of Pittsburgh surrounded by sources….

What to Make of “Lack of Talk about Talks”?

Tomlin’s contract status gets more interesting as it was also a hot topic in Ed Bouchette’s weekly chat.

When asked about negotiations a few weeks ago Bouchette reminded readers that there was still plenty of time and that he expected a deal to get done.

This week he was far less sure, indicating to several questioners (including 3 from this author) that he now doubted a deal. Bouchette did not offer any affirmative reports to back that up, but rather he based his belief on the lack of talk about talks.

Attentive fans in Steelers Nation should perk up their ears when Bouchette changes his tune like this. He knows the Steelers organization through and through. He and Gerry Dulac have been right several times this season while others have been wrong.

But while Bouchette’s comments about Tomlin’s prospects for a contract renewal command a healthy respect, no one should accept them as Gospel.

Bouchette gets the goods, but he’s missed the boat on Steelers contract negotiations several times in recent years.

In 2008 he opined that no contract extensions would be reached because the Steelers ownership restructuring was consuming that attention of the Rooneys.

In the 2009 season he repeatedly his belief that the Steelers would not resign Max Starks to a long-term deal

  • Starks inked a four year extension in June.

Also during the 2009 off season, Bouchette indicated that the Health Miller resigning would be the team’s last move prior to the season

And, on the eve of free agency 2010, Bouchette not only told his readers not to expect much, he put his money where his mouth was and headed off to vacation

Ed Bouchette is a great reporter with fabulous sources, but few of them, it would seem, are involved in contract negotiations.

The more interesting question of course is, should the Steelers extend Mike Tomlin’s contract?

Steel Curtain Rising will be sounding off on that soon, so stay tuned.

For more media analysis of the Steelers press coverage, see Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.

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