Mike Tomlin’s Spiral Down Below “The Standard” Continues

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Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin always seems to have the pulse on what is cool. He needs to worry more about his in game decision making.

In last week article I wrote about how important the game against Tennessee was and if the Steelers lost it was an ominous sign for the 2013 season because it is a game they should win despite the poor off season roster choices, player turnover, lack of depth and loss of leadership.

While watching the Titans game quarter by quarter my blood just boiled like a silent stew of rage about to overflow watching yet another Tomlin led Steelers team not only playing down to the competition, but losing to an inferior opponent – again. Tennessee was a game which Pittsburgh should have won. The Steelers had much better talent at almost every position than Tennessee did. But once again the team played uninspired football which is the norm for them these days.

Greatness Covered Tomlin’s Repeated Mistakes

Tomlin was unheard of before getting the Steelers job in 2007. He had one year as a defensive coordinator under his belt with the Vikings. Courtesy bing images.

For whatever reasons Tomlin seems to be above blame for the Steelers woes.   The ire of the media and fans are always pointed at the coordinators and not the man in charge. The argument for Tomlin is always he won a Super Bowl and took them to two. Tomlin gets too much credit for the Super Bowl appearances and not enough blame for his teams year after year mediocre play with rosters loaded with pro bowlers.

When Tomlin was hired I was open minded about giving an unknown a chance to see what he could do and I became a backer of Tomlin. But that’s what Tomlin was – an unknown. What were his accomplishments? No one had even heard of him. Tomlin spent only one year as a defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings and 5 years as an anonymous defensive backs coach with Tampa Bay. That’s it. Six (6) years experience in the NFL and no one outside of some coaching circles knew who Tomlin was.

Tomlin inherited a warrior for a quarterback.

The Steelers is a dream job for any coach. The stars aligned for Tomlin and he was handed the keys to one of the best teams and organizations in football. Most head coaches when they are hired, inherit 2 to 6 win teams. Most coaches might give an appendage to get the opportunity Tomlin was given – a Super Bowl team with many stars in their prime, one of the best defenses in the league with two NFL defensive players of the year in waiting, arguably the greatest defensive coordinator in NFL history and a franchise quarterback with a Super Bowl title already under his belt just entering his fourth season (which then turned out to be his best statistical season to date).

Tomlin gets too much credit for the victory in Super Bowl 43. Courtesy bing images.

I was just as guilty as anyone after the Steelers beat the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII overlooking Tomlin’s glaring mistakes game in and game out, year after year, before and after that Super Bowl year in 2008. What I have come to realize in the last three years was the Steelers were winning despite Tomlin, not because of Tomlin.

As more and more of Cowher’s players have been retiring and taking the leadership they brought to the locker-room with them, the Steelers have been getting progressively worse both on the field and locker-room leadership. Add in the poor in-game decisions made by Tomlin, the talent choices that have been made by Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert during Tomlin’s tenure (click here for previous article), Tomlin’s lack of vision, Tomlin’s lack of and inability to develop leadership is the reason the Steelers have been 8-10 in their last 18 games. Tomlin is an average coach at best. He is just the benefactor of inheriting a great team that Cowher built and cultivated loaded with superstars in the prime, players of the year, hall of fame players and great assistant coaches just 12 months removed from a Super Bowl title.

Cowher and Colbert were the architects of the team Tomlin has been winning with.

Tomlin proved he can win with Cowher’s players, star players. That’s it. He is now proving he can’t win with his own players and the few remaining Cowher players are still among Tomlin’s best: Roethlisberger, Miller, Polamalu, Clark, Kiesel and Taylor. What would the Steelers be without them?

Tomlin’s Coaching Reveals A Multitude Of Problems

It has been 7 years now in the Tomlin’s reign and he has yet to correct an offensive line which, since his arrival, is considered one of the worst in the league. He tops that off by cutting tackle Max Starks arguably his best lineman, three years in a row for the likes of Jonathon Scott and Guy Whimper only to bring Starks back to save Tomlin’s you know what.  The last three years His franchise quarterback, despite great escape-ability is one of the league leader’s year in and year out in – getting sacked. His teams are undisciplined and one of the heaviest penalized (a huge indicator of poor coaching) and fined teams in the league. Almost arrogantly Tomlin repeatedly fails to make halftime adjustments as if to say ‘We are the Steelers this is what we do. See if you can continue to stop it.’

Tomlin: Mismanagement of Running Backs/Injuries

Tomlin mismanaged Fast Willie Parker right out of football.

Tomlin’s teams are consistently injury prone which is due to a lack of consistency on his part. One year training camp is overtly hard and physical then the next year it is reported as less physical and easier than in camps past.  This year it went back to a physical camp. The same can be said for in season practices.

When Tomlin became head coach he famously stated the he was going to run Willie Parker “until the wheels come off” and Tomlin did. In Tomlin’s first year Parker had 1329 yards. Parker was one of the league’s fastest players but Tomlin constantly ran Parker, who was of slight build, between the tackles like he was Jerome Bettis, not taking advantage of Parker’s speed to the outside. Parker numbers declined drastically in his last 2 years under Tomlin and was out of football by age 29 after the 2009 season.

The Steelers running game has been getting progressively worse producing one of its worst rushing years ever in 2012 and one of its worst single running games in history last Sunday. That is a direct result of Tomlin’s inability to find a number one back, inability to stick with one back, inability to keep his backs healthy and his management of the running backs: running back by — committee.  When was the last time that worked anywhere in the NFL? We all saw how well that worked last year producing one of Pittsburgh’s worst rushing years ever.

Tomlin played Le’Veon Bell who was ruled out of the Redskins pre-season game 3 days prior.

But Tomlin did not learn his lesson in 2012 because he is doing it again this year. He drafted Le’Veon Bell but mismanaged his injury allowing Bell to play in a meaning less pre-season game against the Redskins when other players like Ryan Clark were telling Bell not to play– because Bell was injured. This is something Tomlin should have known and if he didn’t, shame on him. Tomlin cuts rb Jonathon Dwyer (despite local media reports that the other coaches were against it) who carried the load during pre-season to start Ike Redman who only had 2 pre-season carries because of -injury. The results last Sunday against the Titans were atrocious. By the way they also lost rb Larod Stephens Howling for the year last Sunday, who was injured most of camp – to injury. Injuries are common in the NFL but constant injuries that ravage a team year after year are a sign of mismanagement.

The Special Atrocious Teams

Bobby April considered one of the NFL’s best special teams coaches was available this off-season. He is now in Oakland.

The Steelers special teams are and have been under Tomlin anything but special. Every game: penalty’s and more penalty’s, touchdown’s have been frequently overturned because of penalties, repeatedly losing the starting field position battle, constantly starting inside the 20, fumbles, blocked punts, blocked field goals and  returns for touchdowns. More like atrocious teams. At least two losses last year were directly related to special team mistakes. But this is an ongoing issue. Remember all of the kickoff returns against the Steelers for touchdowns in 2009? Tomlin has yet to correct this problem which has lingered since his arrival.

This off season he had an opportunity to hire Bobby April, considered one of the best special teams coaches (and former special teams coach under Bill Cowher) in the league. The Steelers special teams under April were some of the best I had ever seen from the team. Tomlin instead hires Danny Smith from Washington. Just do any research on Danny Smith and see if Washington wasn’t ecstatic– to see Smith go.

Inability To Produce Turnovers

Tomlin was a defensive specialist, which is what got him hired right? But his defensive team is one of the worst ranked as far as turnovers the last 2 years because of their lack of ability to force turnovers. Despite number #1 rankings the defense can barely get to the quarterback. Another reason the defense is number #1 statistically is because the opponents frequently get the ball between the 40’s and it doesn’t take many yards from there to get into scoring position – which goes back to the special teams. Remember that San Diego game last year when almost every single Steelers possession started inside the 10? No offense or defense can over come that.