Tomlin extension sends clear message

The leadership in the Steelers' locker room has changed with Hines Ward and James Farrior gone.

What hasn't changed -- and now won't change for a while -- is the man running the team: Mike Tomlin.

The Steelers made that point very clear when they extended Tomlin's contract through the 2016 season. Some will say this falls in line with the Steelers' maintaining continuity. But the Steelers didn't give an extension to Tomlin. He earned this.

Tomlin, 40, has taken the Steelers to the playoffs in four of his first five seasons. He's led them to the Super Bowl twice. He's tied with the Ravens' John Harbaugh for the winningest active coach.

The most impressive stat is this: Tomlin's .682 winning percentage in his first five seasons is better than his predecessors', Chuck Noll (.540) and Bill Cowher (.640), over the same span of their careers. What else do you want from a coach?

While last season didn't result in a championship, it might have been one of Tomlin's best coaching jobs. The Steelers didn't have a healthy Ben Roethlisberger for most of the year. They didn't have their two best pass-rushers, James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley, on the field for most of the second half of the season. Still, Tomlin found a way to guide Pittsburgh to the playoffs.

This extension sets the right tone heading into training camp. Tomlin was heading into the final year of his contract (the team had an option in 2013), so this deal eliminates any type of distraction. It also sends a clear message that the organization is still behind Tomlin, especially after an offseason when some thought ownership forced Todd Haley in as offensive coordinator.

When a player goes down with an injury, one of Tomlin's favorite lines is: "The standard is the standard." That standard in the Tomlin era has been excellence.

“I am excited that I will continue to be the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers for years to come,” Tomlin said in a statement. “I am grateful to the Steelers organization for the opportunity I have been given over the past five years to work and live in this great city, and I am excited to continue to work to bring another championship to the Steelers and the city of Pittsburgh.”