It's time to point the finger at Mike Tomlin for the Steelers struggles

To what extent should Mike Tomlin bear responsibility for these struggles?
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The Steelers head into the bye week with a surprising 3-2 record, leading the AFC North. However, it's a shock to many because, in reality, this Steelers football team isn't performing well. Their record doesn't reflect their actual performance on the field, as evident in recent games. Take last Sunday, for instance; it wasn't that the Steelers played significantly better than the Ravens, but rather the Ravens made numerous mistakes that led to their loss.

This recurring theme throughout the season is why the Steelers are fortunate to be 3-2 at this point. Despite the recent victory, it's simple to downplay the team's persistent mismanagement and the recurring cycle that leads to the same frustrating feeling year after year.

"The Standard"

In a city where "The Standard" once represented an illustrious history of winning championships and instilling fear in their opponents, that aura has dimmed over time, perhaps unnoticed by many. The once-shining trademark now feels tarnished and bereft of significance.

It's time to confront a harsh reality: the root of the Steelers' problems may be their head coach, Mike Tomlin. The concept of 'The Standard' no longer translates into Super Bowl victories; instead, it conceals the team's mediocrity, evident in a series of winning seasons without a single playoff victory.

This season seems to be following a well-worn path from previous years, with the offense performing worse than ever. Additionally, despite having the NFL's highest-paid defense, it continues to underperform. Given the team's current state, it might be just enough for them to stumble into the playoffs, even if it's not entirely deserved.

Is coaching and scheme to blame for the problem?

In the NFL, coaching unquestionably takes center stage. While talent undoubtedly plays a pivotal role, the defining factor that distinguishes good from great teams has and always will be, coaching. Even the most gifted players can only carry a team so far when they consistently find themselves out schemed and out of position to make plays. This prompts the question: When was the most recent occasion on which we observed the Steelers assert total dominance in a game, both in terms of physicality and schematically, rendering the opposing coaching staff utterly bewildered and searching for answers?

Such instances have grown infrequent, primarily due to the Steelers' steadfast commitment to outdated schemes and coaching tenedencies. It remains perplexing why the Steelers persist in favoring grinding, physical battles rather than aligning with the evolving trends in the NFL, particularly in a league that encourages imitation. This responsibility squarely rests with Tomlin, who, instead of seeking fresh and innovative perspectives from beyond the organization, tends to promote coaches from within. Consequently, we end up with a new coach who clings to the same conventional mindset and coaching philosophy as their predecessors, perpetuating an unending cycle year after year.

(Ahem, Randy Fichtner and Matt Canada...) These frustrations and limitations undeniably play a substantial role in the rising prevalence of one-sided games over the past two years and the current state of the Steelers' offense. It's a matter worthy of contemplation, as emphasized in a tweet by Josh Rowntree:

Is Matt Canada the scapegoat, or is the problem deeper?

For the past three years, the blame has often fallen on Matt Canada for the decline of the Steelers' offense. While there may be some justification for this criticism, given Canada's apparent lack of qualifications for his role, the ultimate responsibility lies with Tomlin. Tomlin not only hired Canada but also promoted him and kept him on board without the necessary credentials or experience to warrant such a prominent position.

Loyalty, which is often greatly respected in most circumstances, has turned into a thorn in the side for the Steelers. The recent decision to let Matt Canada play out the rest of his contract, following last year's underwhelming offensive performance, now appears to be a questionable choice. It seems that Tomlin's intention to bring back Canada in order not to hinder Kenny Pickett's development has completely backfired. The offense now looks worse than ever during Canada's three-year tenure, leaving Mike Tomlin and his team in a state of confusion and without a clear direction. Bringing him back was perplexing enough, but once you see some of the statistics, it becomes even more bewildering.

The numbers speak for themselves and underline the gravity of the issue. The Steelers' points per game over the past three years have been alarming: 2021: 20.2 PPG, 2022: 18.1 PPG, 2023: 15.8 PPG. To provide additional context, a tweet by Josh Rowntree paints a grim picture:

So, what can be done to rectify this dire situation? The damage has already been done, and it's evident that Matt Canada should be relieved of his duties, preferably sooner rather than later. Rather than acknowledging any shortcomings and taking the necessary steps to address them by relieving him of his duties, the team should explore the option of assembling some form of offensive competence this year with another play caller already on staff.

What's to lose? The offense can't possibly get any worse but unfortunately, the Steelers have a track record of sticking with their decisions, even when they appear misguided. As a result, we may have to endure yet another season of lackluster offense and hindered development for our former first-round draft pick.


Ultimately, it falls on Art Rooney II and Mike Tomlin to address the issue before it escalates further, but unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be happening anytime soon. While I and the rest of the world may believe that the time for corrective action is now, it's apparent that the once-golden standard of excellence the Steelers were renowned for is in danger of fading into mediocrity once again.