Remaining playoff teams have something in common that Steelers don’t possess

Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The remaining NFL playoff teams each share an underlying common denominator that the Pittsburgh Steelers simply do not possess. 

After the Wild Card round of the 2022 playoffs concluded, it was hard not to think about what might have been for the Pittsburgh Steelers if they had entered the postseason. Mike Tomlin’s team would have been facing the Buffalo Bills on the road in the first round, and Josh Allen struggled to take care of the ball against Miami.

Some believe that Pittsburgh could have snuck past the Wild Card round, and we have seen that it’s about who is hot in the playoffs. However, when we look around at each team remaining in the playoffs (as well as some who barely lost out in the Wild Card round) we see that nearly all have something in common that the Steelers do not: they all have offensive-minded head coaches.

This was a thought that crossed my mind after the playoff bracket was finalized. Following the first round of the postseason, Warren Sharp was quick to point this out on social media.

We all know how much credit successful, Super Bowl-winning coaches like Andy Reid, Doug Pederson, and Mike McCarthey deserve. Meanwhile, Kyle Shanahan is considered one of the greatest offensive minds in football for what he has been able to do with a seventh-round rookie quarterback this year.

However, we can also take a hard look at the drastic change that coaches like Nick Sirianni (Eagles) and Brian Daboll (Giants) have been able to make to their respective franchises. Sean McDermott (Bills) is the only defensive-minded head coach in the divisional round of the playoffs, but it was Daboll who played a pivotal role in developing QB Josh Allen. Even Zac Taylor — who some would consider to be the worst of the remaining coaches — has found tremendous success with the Bengals over the past two seasons.

Nearly all of these head coaches specialize in being brilliant offensive minds and play-callers. They are known for being aggressive and allowing their offenses to dictate the direction of the game. Passiveness isn’t in their vocabularies.

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Mike Tomlin is obviously a good head coach who has found tremendous success in the past. However, he was most successful very early in his head coaching career, and the game has rapidly evolved into a passing league since then.

Over the past six years, the Pittsburgh Steelers don’t have as much as a playoff appearance, and one has the right to argue whether or not this has to do with a stagnant offense that lacks creativity.

There’s certainly a case to be made for this. Since firing OC Todd Haley after a 13-3 season that included a playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Steelers haven’t caught after an innovative mind outside of their organization. Instead, they turned to in-house hirings — first with QB coach Randy Fichtner and then to another QB coach in Matt Canada.

While these coordinators are partially to blame, the root of the problem could stem from Tomlin’s lack of offensive background. Oustide from Bill Belicheck (who hasn’t seen as much success in recent years) it’s hard to make a case that defensive-minded head coaches are the way to go.

I’m not advocating that the Pittsburgh Steelers should fire Mike Tomlin. However, they certainly need to think outside the box when it comes to their OC hirings. They need to allow a true, creative offensive mind to take full control of the offense. This seems to be necessary in order to keep up with the rest of the league right now.

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I want to believe that things will soon turn around and that the NFL could be dominated by defense once more. However, for the time being, having an elite offense seems to be the way to go, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are lacking that offensive mastermind that all the remaining playoff teams seem to have.