When Adam Gase stares across the MetLife Stadium field at his opponent on Sunday, he’ll be looking at exactly what he’s trying to be as a head coach and what the Jets are trying to be as an organization.
Mike Tomlin and the Steelers are as much a model of sustained consistency, if not excellence, as there in the NFL outside of New England.
You might be put off by Tomlin’s sometimes brusque, I-don’t-give-a-damn-what-you-think demeanor, but you cannot argue with what he delivers.
Tomlin is in his 13th season with the Steelers — only Bill Belichick with New England has been coaching his team longer — and he has won a Super Bowl and been to the playoffs in eight of 12 years without a single losing season.
For all of that good already accomplished, 2019 might be Tomlin’s greatest coaching job of all.
The Steelers are 8-6 and tied with the Titans for the second wild-card playoff berth entering Sunday’s game — and they’re doing it while playing their third-string quarterback, Devlin “Duck” Hodges, an undrafted free agent out of FCS school Samford.
So, when Gase looks across the field at Tomlin on Sunday, he’ll see a head coach who — as Gase did this season — got down to his third-string quarterback because of an injury to his franchise starter.
That, however, is where the similarities between Gase and Tomlin and the direction of their teams’ respective seasons end.
When Gase lost Sam Darnold to mononucleosis for Weeks 2-4, then lost backup Trevor Siemian to injury, and was forced to play three games with third-stringer Luke Falk, the Jets’ season died.
The Jets lost 23-3 to the Browns in Week 2, lost 30-14 to the Patriots in Week 3 and lost 31-6 to the Eagles in Week 4. By the time Darnold returned, the Jets were 0-4, en route to 1-7, and done.
Tomlin lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season in Week 2 to a right elbow injury and was forced to turn to backup Mason Rudolph, who lost his first start , making the Steelers 0-3. After an Oct. 6 overtime loss to the Ravens, Pittsburgh was 1-4 and reeling.
Since then, the Steelers are 7-2 with Hodges having started the past four games and going 3-1.
“A great job,’’ Gase said Thursday of Tomlin’s work this season. “It’s not an easy thing to do. They’ve found a way to be able to kind of handle that bump in the road and find a way to win. For the most part, they’ve just been so consistent.’’
Consistency is something that has eluded the Jets — this season, and throughout most of the franchise’s history.
Granted, the Steelers’ roster is better than that of the Jets, who don’t have the luxury of pass-rushing mavens like T.J. Watt (13 sacks), Alvin Dupree (9.5 sacks) and Cam Heyward (8 sacks), or ball-hawking safety Minkah Fitzpatick. Pittsburgh’s offensive line is far better than that of the Jets, too.
In Pittsburgh, however, it’s always about no excuses and resilience.
“The fact that they’re on their third quarterback of the year and they’re still right in the thick of the playoff hunt, it is impressive,’’ Jets defensive lineman Henry Anderson said.
“You have to respect what they’ve done as an organization and as a team fighting through adversity,’’ Jets linebacker Brandon Copeland told The Post. “We’ve dealt with our own fair share, so we understand. It’s pretty special what they’re on the verge of doing.’’
No one in the Jets’ locker room understands that culture better than defensive lineman Steve McLendon, who played for Tomlin in Pittsburgh from 2010 to 2015 before signing with the Jets in 2016.
“They live by one rule over there: Next man up,’’ McLendon said. “Whenever you take the field you take it as a team and you don’t make excuses. That’s how they play over there. They don’t care who it is playing. They call it ‘nameless great faces.’ That’s how they think.’’
Since Tomlin started with the Steelers in 2007, the Jets are on their fourth head coach (Gase) and their 11th starting quarterback (Darnold). They’ve been to the playoffs twice in that span and are en route to completing their seventh losing season.
“Something that I’ve always respected about Coach Tomlin is he is steady, he’s the same, good, bad and indifferent [and] his team always is competitive all throughout the year as far as — especially in December — you’re always hearing about them,’’ Gase said.
“They’ve created a culture there,’’ Copeland said. “There’s not a lot of turnover in that building and that culture carries down to the players.’’
It’s a culture the Jets have been chasing for decades.