It's time for the Steelers to move on from Mike Tomlin | Steel City Underground

Steel City Underground

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin
steelers.com

The time has come. The Mike Tomlin era needs to be over in Pittsburgh. Barring some miracle run that gets the Steelers to the Super Bowl, the Black and Gold must move on.

You are probably asking: Why should the Steelers move on from a coach who has never had a losing season?

While it’s true that Tomlin has never had a losing season, the only thing that matters to Pittsburgh, or should, at least, is winning championships. Not of the division title variety, but of the Super Bowl variety.

Tomlin won one, 10 years ago. He appeared in another one, eight years ago too. But since then he’s gone 3-5 in the postseason. (That is, when he’s made it to the playoffs.)

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Of those five postseason losses you can count the devastating loss at Denver to the Tim Tebow led Broncos in 2012 and the disastrous home loss to the Blake Bortles led Jacksonville Jaguars last season by the score of 45-42.

While I feel neither of those should have been losses, had the Steelers won I believe they never would have gotten past the New England Patriots in the following round: a team, that up until this season, Tomlin hasn’t been able to beat in seven years.

Turns out that victory over the Patriots may have been the Steelers Super Bowl this year. If you’re okay with that, you’re not seeing the bigger picture. Noone involved with the Steelers in any capacity, that is ownership, management, players or fans, should ever be accepting of the Steelers most-exciting moment of the season being a regular season victory over the Patriots.

Yet here we are, in the Mike Tomlin era.

Ask yourself, are you okay with that? Are you okay with “winning seasons” that end up falling short of the ultimate goal: a Lombardi trophy?

If so, go get involved with a team like the Browns who would kill for that, but this is Pittsburgh: a city of champions. Falling short of a world title is not acceptable.

Is the standard too high?

Perhaps it is but as Tomlin would say: “The Standard is The Standard”. Quite frankly, he’s not living up to that standard at this point.

It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that good coaches often get fired. I’m not saying Tomlin wouldn’t or shouldn’t be picked up by another team should the Steelers part ways with him. He’d be the hottest coach available, understandably.

What I am saying is that he’s lost his voice in Pittsburgh. He’s been tuned out, moved on from internally, and possibly lost the respect of the players.

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There have been far too many discipline issues off of the field with the antics of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown to name a few. Let’s not forget that when Ben Roethlisberger was having his off-field issues years ago, that was on Tomlins watch too.

Or how about the National anthem flop in 2017 and how poorly that was handled?

I could go on… The Martavis Bryant disaster… The Joey Porter bar fight… Oh, and just as a reminder, this was when Porter was a coach!

The list goes on.

You cannot have a successful team on the field if you don’t hold your players accountable both on and off of it. Just look at Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati to understand that.

However, the discipline issues aren’t just off of the field, they are on it as well.

The Steelers rank 28th in penalty yards this season, 9th in 2017 (that’s good, no argument), 26th in 2016, 19th in 2015, 15th in 2014, 4th in 2013 (I’m amazed) 24th in 2012 and 22nd in 2011 (the season after they last went to the Super Bowl).

That’s an average of 18th in the league, bottom half in other words.

I can tell you right now that championship football doesn’t consist of averaging 18th in the league in penalty yards given up. If you think that’s acceptable, go root for the Bengals where it is! (Oh, by the way, where they don’t win championships!)

Tomlin has never put the hammer down on these players. Bill Cowher’s teams averaged 6th in the league his last three years, which were the first three years I was able to pull for this data.

My point is, I don’t want to hear the argument that this has always been how the Steelers play football, because it hasn’t. Yet, if it were just discipline, perhaps that could be lived with, but there are other variables.

Tomlin is a terrible game manager, can’t handle clock management, use his timeouts properly or even make in-game adjustments. He’s brazen at the wrong times and calls boneheaded plays like the fake punt this past week against the Saints… in a game that had their entire season on the line.

The idea of failing and giving Drew Brees the ball with less than half a field to go apparently didn’t matter to Tomlin. He called it. It failed. Season over.

But it’s not just the bad decisions in game. It’s the lack of pre-game preparation. The season opening tie to the Browns, the losses at Denver and at Oakland, the blown 4th quarter lead to the Chargers: any one of these games can be looked upon this season as the one that cost them a playoff spot.

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When you’re a team like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers, the expectation is to win it all: not just make the playoffs.

And that is not happening anymore under Mike Tomlin.

Just like in Philadelphia with Andy Reid or in Green Bay with Mike McCarthy, teams had to move on after a while. Both were great, successful coaches for those two organizations.

McCarthy even has a Super Bowl under his belt, like Tomlin does (coincidentally by beating Tomlin) yet the Packers saw it was time to move on. McCarthy had an all-world quarterback with Aaron Rodgers and the team didn’t want to waste his last remaining years not winning it all.

Tomlin has an all-world quarterback with Ben Roethlisberger, an all-world receiver with Antonio Brown and another one with JuJu Smith Schuster, an amazing offensive line and he had an all-world running back with Le’Veon Bell (when he was in town as well), yet the team falls short.

And falls short consistently.

With talent like that on the roster, it shouldn’t be acceptable to consistently fall short of the ultimate goal. The window is about to close and what do the Steelers have to show for it?

At this point… nothing.

Tomlin came into Pittsburgh as a defensive specialist. When Keith Butler was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2015, it was proclaimed that Tomlin would be heavily involved in the defensive schematics and game planning. It is widely known that he was very involved in the 45-42 loss to the Jaguars at home this past January in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The defense has been far less than stellar in the last four years and it was down right atrocious in that playoff loss. There are absolutely no arguments about that.

If the head coach can’t utilize his ‘specialty’ and improve the team, then what can he do?

Well who would they hire, you are probably saying. You’re saying there aren’t many other coaches in the league you would take over Tomlin.

Okay, fine, that may be true. But would you have taken Tomlin in 2007 over anybody? Probably not. Would you have taken Cowher before him in 1992 over anyone else? Doubtful.

Yet, the Steelers did.

They have an incredible ability to find hidden talent and hire them and win with them. So, if you’re the kind of person who’s afraid of change because you think they can’t replace Tomlin, you’re a doubter of the Rooneys. They have proven over and over again that the success the team has had starts from the top with them and then it funnels down to the field. Why wouldn’t they be able to do it again? There is no reason.

The front office hires the coaches and provides the talent: it’s up to those coaches to win with that talent that is provided. Tomlin has a lot of talent in that locker room but he’s not getting the job done with it any longer.

Ask Rocky Bleier how he feels about this team under Tomlin, aside from the “I’m Done” comment:

With three games remaining, the Steelers’ destiny lies in their hands, but it is shaky with the Patriots, Saints and Bengals on the horizon. How they fare will dictate the team’s future and it may be without [head coach Mike] Tomlin

I don’t expect him to be fired anytime soon but it’s about that time the Steelers should consider it. If, however, Tomlin does bring another Lombardi back to Pittsburgh someday, I’ll write a raving review of him and admit my mistake in judging him.

This is in print: hold me to it!

Until that happens though, don’t hold your breath!





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  1. Where’s Turk? He should be wetting himself over this take.

    PS This is well written Mike. I love the fact that we have two articles on this site with different takes. This is well put together and makes some great points too!

    • Joe Kuzma says:

      That wasn’t by accident either. I knew Mike was cooking this up and wrote the opposing view. There are solid ideas on both sides… none of which should mean Tomlin gets fired! (Oooo see what I did there?! My take is the important one! Haha!)

  2. I’m still not sold on keeping Danny Smith or Keith Butler around, but no one is talking much about them. I didn’t think Joey Porter helped the linebackers. Wasn’t keen on Carnell Lake helping out the DBs (because they weren’t doing any better under him). I truly understand the sentiment that WINs are the responsibility of a head coach (even if I disagree to a point), but I think a lot of people are guilty of looking at the sideline instead of the individuals who are on the field executing or not executing what was planned. Football is a game of adjustments. Now, if everyone started saying that Tomlin and his staff have had issues adjusting to revamp their plan during games and that has led to losses, then I’d have to say that is absolutely true. If you can’t adapt and adjust, you’re going to get burned in the NFL. Thanks for your insights, Mike.

    • I agree with your take on both Butler & Smith. In fact, I was quite pissed that Butler survived last off-season. If he survives this one too, then I’m going nuclear. Tomlin however, is one I flip flop on often. There are tremendous arguments for each side. I’ll put it this way, if we should move on from him this year (which I do not believe for a second will happen), I won’t be upset.

  3. Turk says:

    Finally someone making sense. Thank God. Your right Dave I was so wrong about Tomlin. How about that performance yesterday against a team with nothing to play for an 16 guys on IT. We needed a late field goal to win. Very inspiring. Just think about this Dave. We couldn’t win a division with Jeff Driscoll and 2 rookie qbs. Well done Tomlin.

    • Way to suck up the national blowhards bullshit take Turk. The Steelers were 4-1-1 against our own division. It wasn’t our division play that doomed us. But hey, if Colin Cowherd says it, it must be true. I’m proud of your extensive research. I’ll make sure I come to your website too and soak up all of your vast knowledge. I’m impressed with this early display of your mastery of the fine art of disseminating information into valid points. Looking forward to more…

      • Turk says:

        Ok jackoff how about this then. 3 teams have failed to make the playoffs that starred 7-2-1or better and missed the playoffs since 1990. Raiders and Dolphins are the other 2 and they had qbs get hurt. That’s a fact tough guy.

      • Turk says:

        Oh how did they do against the afc west. So it only matters how you do in your division idiot. The point is that the division was there for the taking. At least present some facts.

        • Turk says:

          You must love all the stuff coming out now after the game. A very tight ship there running over there. Here’s some more facts Colin kapernick has more playoff wins than tomlin since 2008. Road favorites 9.5 or more. NFL 52-10. Tomlin 6-5since 2008. Facts idiot

          • Joe Kuzma says:

            What does Vegas odds have ANYTHING to do with results on the football field? Again you’re cherrypicking stats, especially since Tomlin has a ring and Kaepernick doesn’t.

            FYI you’re dangerously close to being banned from this website for your language and tone: so one last time I’ll mention KEEP IT CIVIL!

    • Joe Kuzma says:

      If all you’re going to do is troll here, this is your final warning. Our time is valuable and we pour it into our product. We’re not going to waste it on your constant negativity or allow you to pick fights with our regulars and turn them away either.

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