Mike Tomlin on lack of diversity among NFL head coaches: 'We'll continue to fight for equality'

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin explains decision to fake punt late in loss to Saints

Mike Tomlin has taken notice of the glaring lack of diversity in the NFL head coaching circle.

The long-time Steelers frontman is one of only four minority head coaches (three black) in the league heading into the 2019-20 season and is disappointed in the lack of progress by the “Rooney Rule” to hire minority candidates.

“I think the numbers speak for themselves in that regard,” Tomlin said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It was a disappointing hiring cycle for someone who watches it like I do, knowing some of the deserving men I do who I thought should have gotten an opportunity and didn’t. But we’ll continue to work and fight for equality and opportunity.”

The “Rooney Rule” was created with the intention of giving minorities a way to get their foot in the door with NFL organizations, whether it be for coaching or the front office. But sometimes it is seen as a “good faith” interview for teams who that want to comply with the rules so they can hire their presumptive favorite candidate. 

Last fall, there were eight minority head coaches in the NFL to start the season, tied for the most ever. By the time January rolled around, things changed.  

Of the eight head coaches who were fired by season’s end, five were black, including Todd Bowles (Jets), Marvin Lewis (Bengals), Vance Joseph (Broncos), Hue Jackson (Browns), and Steve Wilks (Arizona) — who was canned after only one season at the helm in Arizona. 

Brian Flores (Dolphins) was the only minority head coaching hire made this offseason, leaving Flores, Tomlin, Anthony Lynn (Chargers) and Ron Rivera (Panthers) as the NFL’s remaining minority head coaches.

“I think that’s what the Rooney Rule speaks to, equality within the opportunity,” Tomlin said. “We’ll continue to fight for that, not only in terms of head coaching searches, but maybe other areas of the profession as well. I know there’s some discussions in the offseason regarding some of that.”

Tomlin, 47, won Super Bowl 43 in his second season as the Steelers head coach and is one of only three head coaches the franchise has had since the NFL-AFL merger.