Steelers' Mike Tomlin on Lack of Black NFL Head Coaches: We 'Haven't Been Able to Move the Needle'

"The optimist in me says things will get better, but there's been no evidence in the recent cycles to back that up," Mike Tomlin said

Mike Tomlin
Mike Tomlin. Photo: Joe Sargent/Getty

Mike Tomlin is calling for more diversity among NFL team leadership.

The Pittsburgh Steelers head coach — who is one of only three Black people with that title in the NFL, including the Houston Texans' David Culley and the Miami Dolphins' Brian Flores — told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an interview published Saturday that the league still has a long way to go in terms of progress.

And while Tomlin, 48, doesn't "have an answer" as to "how to make it better," he wants to continue to speak out about it — as he also did last week, on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel — in an attempt to help spur change.

"The optimist in me says things will get better, but there's been no evidence in the recent cycles to back that up," he told the Post-Gazette. "Without evidence, all we have is hope. We just haven't been able to move the needle."

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Mike Tomlin
Mike Tomlin. Joe Sargent/Getty

"I normally don't talk publicly during the offseason, but this is a critical issue for us," Tomlin continued in his interview with the Post-Gazette. "As important as this is for us in the NFL, it's also important for us as a society. It deserves all the attention it gets."

Tomlin's comments come after the last hiring cycle saw just one Black person (Culley, 65) be named to one of seven vacant head-coaching positions. More than 60 percent of the NFL's players are Black.

Speaking with the outlet about Eric Bieniemy — offensive coordinator for 2020's Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs — Tomlin touched on the fact that he interviewed for six of the seven open slots but didn't get chosen, calling the decision "a real head-scratcher."

"Every offensive coordinator [Chiefs head coach] Andy Reid has had in the last 20 years got a head job. One of those guys, Brad Childress, hired me in Minnesota in 2006," he said. "Now, Andy has the best offense he's ever had and [Bieniemy] can't get a job?"

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During an interview that aired during halftime of the 2021 Super Bowl last month, President Joe Biden also commented on the lack of Black coaches in the NFL, saying in part, "I don't understand why they cannot find — because they exist, so many African American coaches that are qualified, that should be in the pros, in my view."

Last year, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell commented on the NFL's lack of diversity and how their decades-old policy, called the Rooney Rule, of requiring every team in the league to interview "at least one" diverse candidate for coaching positions, is not sufficient.

"Clearly, we are not where we want to be on this level," said Goodell, 62. "We have a lot of work that's gone into not only the Rooney Rule but our policies overall. It's clear we need to change and do something different."

"There's no reason to expect we're going to have a different outcome next year without those kinds of changes," he added.

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