For the Steelers, 2013 is over. Is it time to blame the Rooney’s?


Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There was some sad irony in the Steelers 34-27 loss to the Vikings in London on Sunday. On the day when one of their all time greatest players passed away, the 2013 Steelers sunk to a new low.

RIP L.C. Greenwood:

Mandatory Credit:

On Sunday, former defensive end L.C. Greenwoood passed away at the young age of sixty-seven. I had the great honor of attending an autograph show where Greenwood, Greene, Holmes and White were together for the last time. Hanging in my home office is a great photo of the famed four standing on the field awaiting the for opposing offense to break the huddle.

Each man signed the photo in gold, L.C’s signature the most pronounced of all. Of the four, he and Dwight White were the friendliest and most talkative that day, although all four were very nice and even humbled by the compliments fans were giving them as they signed photos, jerseys, and helmets. I still strongly feel that both Greenwood and LB Andy Russell belong in the Hall of Fame, the only two remaining players from the dynasty years I feel deserve to get in. Along with Randy Gradishar and Harold Carmichael (and maybe Drew Pearson and Ken Stabler) they are the players I feel need to be inducted sooner than a lot of guys like Tim Brown and Andre Reed who I feel were nothing more than stat collectors.

I know many feel different, especially about Brown, but that’s a debate for another time. Greenwood’s passing was sad because here was another great icon from the dynasty years that marked a sad reminder of when it was glorious to be a Steeler fan.

And now, onto Sundays debacle

Hard to believe that we are only at October first, yet for all intents and purposes, the Steelers season is over. Four games in and they are done. They haven’t won a game since December 2012.  And being fans, nothing satisfies us more than to point fingers at those to blame. Last week I suggested it was time to clean house, from GM Kevin Colbert to HC Mike Tomlin to OC Todd Haley and DC Dick Lebeau. With the bye week upon us, we can expect nothing in Steeler land to happen, no great shakeup is in-store. Heading into their October 13th game against the Jets (a game I will be attending), all things will look just like they did on Sunday. Therein lies the problem. The Steelers are not a team that shakes things up.

Right now it’s obvious that Mike Adams is a disaster at tackle and that all those high OL draft picks are garbage. On defense, Ryan Clark needs to be benched. Time to give Shamarko Thomas a start to see what he can do. Time to bench the useless Ziggy Hood and play Al Woods or anyone else (but Heyward) more. This is the worst Steeler defense I can remember since the late 1980’s. ZERO, count them zero forced turnovers in four games and next to no pass rush whatsoever. It’s painfully clear Dick Lebeau was allowed to hang on a year too long.

Obviously, opposing offensive coordinators have figured out his blitz packages and coverage schemes. I mean Jake Locker and Matt Cassel have looked like world beaters, imagine later this season when Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers play this defense. Can anyone say yikes???

As someone who has loved the Steelers since January of 1975, this is hard and painful to watch, and even harder to write about. I want to say they can still turn this around, the talent is there. But I can’t and there isn’t. They haven’t been this bad since 1968 and only one team that started 0-4 has ever made the playoffs : the 1992 Chargers. However, with New England, Green Bay and the Ravens twice to come, it is unlikely the Steelers will join the ’92 Chargers in that category.

Is it finally time to blame the Rooney’s?

Alright, first and foremost it’s idiotic to question an ownership group that has produced twenty six playoff teams, eight conference champions and six Superbowl champions, and a slew of Hall of Fame players and a Head coach. However, it’s equally idiotic not to question them at this moment. Last Sunday night, during the Steelers-Bears game, NBC showed us a shot of the owner’s box at Heinz Field and aimed it right at Dan Rooney, (who eerily resembled the old man from the movie ‘Up’), looking on glumly at what was transpiring on the field. As I watched that shot of Rooney, I realized he was most to blame. Yes, I know he doesn’t handle much of the day-to-day stuff anymore, another Rooney does, but since he is the overall top dog, he is most responsible.

Earlier that day I had watched a documentary on the Steelers called “The Pittsburgh Steelers:Behind the Steel Curtain” which was a look at their dynasty years from 1972-1980. Near the end, they remarked on the ‘steady, consistent’ leadership of the Steelers under the Rooney family. And I realized that no matter what may happen, even an 0-16 season would not see an earth-shattering change in ‘The Steeler Way’.

Let’s be painfully honest here: Mike Tomlin is going nowhere. As much as it sickens me to write it, he has the most job security of any coach in the NFL, simply because he coaches the Steelers and the Steelers don’t fire their head coaches. Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher both had their bad stretches, but both were allowed to bow out on their own.

It’ll be the same deal with Tomlin. And that is my major complaint about the Rooney leadership, their head coaches feel no threat to their job security. Tomlin is as to blame as much as anyone, save for GM Kevin Colbert who has assembled this mess. I know Mike has his fans, especially when I compared Tomlin to Cowher to see who was a better fit as coach for the Steelers.  Yeah, I got raked over the coals for that one when I picked Cowher. Well, how does Tomlin look now?

I for one am so sick of his inane press conferences, his all style and no substance coaching, and his wide-eyed, blank stares as he prowls the sidelines. It was nice to see a little fire in his press conference after the Vikings game, but believe me, that won’t translate into anything come tomorrow. “We’ve got to get better,” was his latest gem. Four games following an entire preseason and they’ve got to get better? Did he not have this team ready to go?

All the fundamentals he talked about (tackling, etc ) are on HIM, he’s the head coach, the teacher, the drillmaster, it’s his job to pound fundamentals into these guys. Supposedly, this past training camp was one of the more physical they’ve had, yet none of us have seen any signs of  this translating to the field. When will the Rooney family understand Mike Tomlin is not a head coach in this league?

My case against Tomlin

Few coaches have walked into a situation where there was such good talent on hand as Tomlin did in 2007. Yes, Bill Cowher’s last year with the team in 2006 produced an 8-8 record following a Superbowl championship, but he did not leave the cupboard bare, just like Noll didn’t leave Cowher devoid of talent when he took over.

In Tomlin’s first year with the team, seventeen of his starters were starters under Cowher, and 43 of the 53 men on the roster were from Cowher’s last team. Tomlin’s 2008 Superbowl Championship was won with thirteen starters from Cowher’s 2006 team and 31 players  from Cowher’s last team.

The 2010 Superbowl team saw only eight starters and twenty one players with ties to Cowher, so Tomlin gets some credit for that. Three years later, only seven players remain from Cowher’s 2006 team and here they sit at 0-4 after an 8-8 season last year. My point?

Tomlin can’t win with guys he’s had a hand in choosing. Again, Colbert gets his share of the blame, but Tomlin just can neither motivate nor coach his own guys. There is no fire or passion in this group. and that has to come somewhat from the head coach and there is none. Tomlin spoke about getting rid of guys, as if he already knows come what may he’ll be back in 2014.

If I was Dan Rooney, I’d bring Tomlin into my office and say “coach, you’ve got twelve games to keep your job”. Nothing more and nothing less. Tomlin isn’t owed a thing, his job should be no more secure than anyone else in the NFL. But that’s not in the Rooney DNA, and that’s the problem. Look, I know the Rooney’s along with the Mara’s are NFL royalty and they have not destroyed once proud franchises like Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder have with the Cowboys and Redskins respectively. However, that shouldn’t put them above doing the right thing for this franchise and gutting it from the top down.

As strange as it sounds, in sports,sometimes steady and consistent can be a negative.

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