By Kyle Dawson
Pittsburgh media has started to get on the coaching staff of the Steelers, and rightfully so.
Coming off their bye week, the Steelers laid an egg in a battle for first-place in the AFC North in Baltimore Sunday, Nov. 6.
It’s the third straight loss for the Steelers, who may have been worse against the Baltimore Ravens than the first loss in the string, a road loss in Miami to a Dolphins team that at the time of the game in Week Six was 1-4 with the only win coming against the winless Cleveland Browns.
Scrunched between those two losses was a loss to New England without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had surgery for a torn meniscus the Monday following the loss to Miami, before being on bye in Week Eight.
Then this loss happened.
Roethlisberger returned in the loss to Baltimore and was abysmal before the fourth quarter.
The Steelers were favored entering the game against a team under .500 and on the road, a situation in which Mike Tomlin teams have not exceled in during his tenure as head coach.
It’s time for the Mike Tomlin era to end, whether now or at season’s end.
After all, “the standard is the standard,” and the standard for Steeler football is to beat the teams they should beat and compete for championships year in and year out.
Here are three reasons why it’s time to relieve Tomlin of his duties and wish him luck in his future endeavors. Let’s use some of his dubbed “Tomlin-isms” to explain why.
“Obviously An Undisciplined Football Team”
Before Tomlin took over after Bill Cowher when he retired from coaching, Pittsburgh was known as the team and franchise that didn’t put up with disciplinary issues.
It was thought that the commandment was laid down by the Rooney family, who owns the franchise, that discipline issues weren’t to be put up with.
As it stands now in recent past, that has been conflicted.
Here are some examples of suspensions and arrests going undisciplined by the team.
Former kicker Jeff Reed was arrested multiple times in 2009, once for breaking a towel dispenser in a convenience store and cussing out an employee. He was charged for disorderly conduct on that occasion, and was arrested again along with then-teammate Matt Spaeth for an incident outside a bar, in which Reed was cited for resisting arrest, public intoxication in a confrontation with police and more.
Last year, running back Le’Veon Bell and then-teammate and fellow backfield member LeGarrette Blount were pulled over and suspected of marijuana possession. Bell was put in a diversion program and given 15 months of probation on arrest, while Blount was in the passenger seat and was detained with community service and forced to enter a diversion program as well.
Both players also missed game time due to suspensions for that incident.
It took Blount walking off the field in the middle of the game to be disciplined and cut.
Bell has been given numerous second chances including after a suspension this season for another failed drug test.
Maybe the discipline is a Tomlin problem. Maybe it was never the Rooney family. Maybe it was Cowher. Nonetheless, attitude reflects leadership, and the attitude of this team is “obviously an undisciplined football team.”
“Business As Usual”
Chris Boswell’s onside kick attempt in the loss at Baltimore was a microcosm of how the game went for the Steelers. It was bad. Any person with any knowledge of the game of football can tell you that. The sad thing is, Pittsburgh should still have won the game. It had its chances.
Tomlin says all the time about how some losses and situations are just “life in the National Football League.”
Following the Miami loss, the talk was brought up again about Tomlin’s teams and his coaching style playing down to the competition. In games the Steelers are favored by seven points under Tomlin, Pittsburgh is 29-8, good for a .784 winning percentage. It’s below the cumulative NFL winning percentage of .830 in such games. In games in which Pittsburgh has been three-point favorites or more, it is 49-19 (.721), which is below the cumulative NFL percentage of .753 in such games.
The difference is obvious on the road.
Under Tomlin, the Steelers are 4-3 on the road against teams they are favored to defeat by 10 or more points. The league average is close to a 90 percent winning percentage in those situations. Pittsburgh’s, though in a small sample size, is .571. It gets worse when they are favored by three or more points, coupling in the loss today.
Sure, put the struggles on the execution by the personnel, but something has to be said about a team coming off a bye week, even with injuries, and putting as bad of a performance out as they did against Baltimore Sunday.
So if it’s “life in the National Football League,” shouldn’t the Steelers, who have one of the most powerful units on offense in the league, win those types of games? But, as Tomlin says, it’s just “business as usual.”
“To Be Quite Honest With You”
“To be quite honest with you” is one of his favorites.
Let’s be honest then.
Tomlin was outcoached in the loss to Baltimore, coming off a bye week with two weeks to prepare for a team under .500.
Ben Roethlisberger clearly was not 100 percent Sunday. He struggled with accuracy until the fourth quarter. The skill-position players were nonexistent. The gameplan consisted of many, what I would call protection plays, to keep the franchise QB and his body intact. If he wasn’t ready to play, why did he play?
Go back to Miami. If there was any cause for worry about Roethlisberger’s knee, why did he go back in the game. When he came back in, he wasn’t good.
Roethlisberger has authority, and rightfully so. He’s a warrior, a playmaker and a star in the league.
But when does the head coach, and the person paid to be the leader of this storied franchise, step in and make the smart decision with Roethlisberger’s health?
It’s time to take a hard look at Tomlin’s status, and it may be time to throw him on the hot seat, if I’m going “to be quite honest with you.”