Nice work if you can get it, the antithesis of the typical coaching transition — think Hazmat suit and fire extinguisher.
Then, in 2009, the Steelers failed to make the playoffs. They endured a turbulent offseason that included the departure of Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes and suspension of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Oh, and with training camp looming last summer, media were asking why Tomlin's contract had not been extended.
Was Tomlin's future in Pittsburgh not as bright as that initial flash? Would fans start clamoring for former coach Bill Cowher? Had the Steelers fallen behind division rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati, not to mention AFC stalwarts New England and Indianapolis?
Tomlin and his team answered with a 12-4 regular season, AFC North title and two riveting playoff victories that advanced them to Sunday's Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers.
Tomlin, 38 and a graduate of Denbigh High and William and Mary, is the second coach to reach two Super Bowls in his first four seasons. The other: Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs of the Washington Redskins.
"Well, it's his team now," veteran receiver Hines Ward told reporters last week. "When he first inherited the team, a lot of those players were under Coach Cowher and did things Coach Cowher's way. Mike Tomlin was very militant when he came here. He wanted to see who would challenge his authority and he got rid of some of the guys that questioned his authority a little bit.
"He kept the guys that followed what he wanted. Once he got a full year or two of the guys he knows and sees everyday at practice, then he let up a little bit. He gave guys off time and stuff like that. I think guys love playing for him. He's just a pro's coach and he stands up for everybody."
Three-year contract extension in hand, Tomlin confronted myriad challenges this season.
Fed up with Holmes' drug issues, Pittsburgh traded him to the New York Jets. The Steelers juggled quarterbacks Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch while Roethlisberger sat out the first four games, his punishment for an offseason sexual encounter that the woman said was coerced.
Also, injuries riddled the offensive line and caused two defensive cogs, safety Troy Polamalu and end Aaron Smith, to miss significant time.
"A couple of years ago, I watched the New England Patriots go 11-5 without Tom Brady," Tomlin said during Super Bowl media day. "That's what good teams do — they win in spite of."
"I think this team is kind of different because of all the adversity that we had to go through," defensive end Brett Keisel said. "(Tomlin) has done an phenomenal job of just plugging in guys and putting them in, and that's what the … 53-man roster is all about. It was a great job by Coach Tomlin and Kevin Colbert, our player personnel guy. Our hats are off to those guys. They are the reason we all put it together and are playing in the Super Bowl."
Indeed, while the Steelers' trademark defense, again the NFL's best, is essentially unchanged from two years ago, the offense has turned over considerably. Ward, Roethlisberger, tight end Heath Miller and guard Chris Kemoeatu are the remaining starters.
Every specialist — punter, kicker, holder, long snapper, kick returner and punt returner — also is different from Tomlin's first Super Bowl. Finally, after last season's disappointment, Tomlin fired offensive line assistant Larry Zierlein and special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky.
So clearly the guy can adjust.
"We believe in building through the draft," Tomlin said. "I don't think that's a big secret. Equally as important as that is we believe in paying our own players — those who are deserving — and simply adding to and supplementing that. That's our business model. It's worked for a long time prior to me getting here. I think it creates an atmosphere where guys care about one another. They care about the organization. They understand that it is bigger than them."