Poor Coaching: Steelers Lose to Ravens

Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith reacts against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 17, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith reacts against the Denver Broncos during the AFC Divisional round playoff game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

On a Sunday where not much was going right, poor coaching is primarily to blame.

Ok … that was UGLY.

Prior to the game, everything was pointing towards a Steelers victory. Ben was able to suit up. Marcus Gilbert and Cam Heyward were back. The Steelers had an entire Bye Week to prepare. What could go wrong?

However, the Steelers had arguably their worst performance in years. The offense failed to show up until late in the 4th quarter when time was running thin. Then, a crucial drop by Sammie Coates and quote possibly the worst special teams call in NFL history with Boswell’s failed “rabona” sealed the Steelers fate. On a day where virtually nothing seemed to be going in our favor, who is to blame?


In my opinion, the blame has to primarily fall on the coaching staff, as Pittsburgh once again played down to the level of a sub-.500 team. Let’s take a quick look and review the performances of each coach.

Mike Tomlin, Head Coach

Let me start this off by saying I am a big Tomlin supporter. Players love to play for him, as he places a lot of trust in his players, especially #7. Also, when at his best, Tomlin’s aggressiveness is a perfect match for this Pittsburgh team.

However, if you want to hear a great summary of my issues with Tomlin, listen to this “hot take” by Colin Cowherd.

Tomlin eventually needs to be held accountable for year-in and year-out failing to prepare his team to play sub-.500 teams. Tomlin and the rest of the coaching staff seem to constantly develop a conservative game plan that ends up backfiring for the Steelers.

This week, the coaching staff failed to develop a winning game plan and even give the Steelers a chance yet again. After unsuccessfully trying to establish the run against a talented run defense, Tomlin failed to get Roethlisberger into any sort of rhythm. Questionable play calling (which lies on Haley) and failing to attack downfield resulted in a vanilla offense that failed to generate any sort of momentum.

The Steelers also played one of the more undisciplined games I have ever seen them play. Penalties killed their chances of winning today, with 13 flags thrown against them for 99 penalty yards. Ultimately, a lot of the blame has to be placed on Tomlin for this team’s lack of preparation.

Todd Haley, Offensive Coordinator

Although Todd Haley has helped transform Pittsburgh’s offense in recent years, you can’t help but think this offense is currently underperforming in 2016. With lofty goals set at scoring 30 points-per-game, the Steelers offense threw out another dud, scoring only 14 after being held scoreless through 3.5 quarters.

With so many weapons and an offense that includes Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown, Todd Haley has to get this offense back on track. While Ben certainly wasn’t his sharpest today, a lot of the blame should fall on Haley’s play calling.

Pittsburgh kept unsuccessfully attempting to establish the run. On several occasions, Haley opted to run delayed halfback draws on 3rd and long rather than opting to pass the ball. He also failed to call any passing plays that challenged multiple levels of the field until late in the 4th quarter, when the game was already out of hand.

While the over-dramatic Yinzer inside of me is screaming “Fire Haley!”, I realize that this idea is overreacting (or at least I’m pretty sure it is.) However, if Haley can’t take advantage of this offense’s undeniable potential by seasons end, I would not be surprised to see Pittsburgh and Haley part ways.

Keith Butler, Defensive Coordinator

One of the few bright spots today was the energy and hustle of the Steelers defense. Butler called one of his more aggressive games of the season, and it paid off defensively.

21. 26. 14. 55. Final

While handling the Raven’s offense is nothing to brag about, the Steeler’s defense improved in many ways today.

Shazier was back to his normal self, flying around the field and making plays. Artie Burns stepped up in his first start. He jumped a passing lane to pick off a terribly throw ball by Joe Flacco. Even James Harrison showed signs of his younger days. Harrison racked up 2 sacks to inch himself closer to becoming the Steeler’s all-time leader in that category. 

Danny Smith, Special Teams

Where do I even begin.

While the Steeler’s special teams unit has never been one of the NFL’s elite, this was their worst performance in this area of the game in recent years memory.

Multiple penalties killed the Steeler’s field position, including a roughing the kicker call that briefly extended a Raven’s drive.

Additionally, a blocked punt on Jordan Berry’s 10th attempt of the day was returned for a touchdown. This proved to be a crucial mistake, as the Steeler’s late rally came up just short.

Then, to put the finishing touches on an already horrid special teams performance, the unthinkable happened.

With the Steeler’s chances of victory hanging on the slim chances of recovering an onside kick, Danny Smith decided to call a “rabona”. Outside of soccer, I have never seen this type of kick before.

Apparently Boswell had executed one of these before in his college days, but why do you make this call? You should never ask your kicker to attempt a kick of such high difficulty under these circumstances. Boswell messed up the kick and ended up bouncing the ball off of his leg.

You honestly couldn’t help but laugh. Boswell was left looking upfield while the ball had already come to a rest just inches from his foot.

Next: Pittsburgh Passing Attack: Need for a Middle of the Field Target

For the reasons above and other special teams issues that have been plaguing the Steeler’s for years, I truly believe Danny Smith should be fired for this performance.

Most importantly, after a performance like today, someone needs to be held accountable.