Despite a strong start, which led to "Great Expectations", the Pittsburgh Steelers eventually got the "Dickens" beat out of them in Indianapolis, 30-13, on Saturday. The Colts inexplicably reeled off 30 unanswered points and broke the Steelers' will late in a game that many had described as a "must-win" for both teams' playoff aspirations.
Along the way, the Steelers' third consecutive loss dropped their overall record to a disappointing 7-7 mark, leading to yet another new chapter in what's become a Steelers classic -- "A Tale of Two Tomlins".
So, with apologies to the great Charles Dickens for lumping his classic literary works in with a once proud organization, I offer up some interesting parallels.
After all, Mike Tomlin's career at the helm of the Steelers may be best summed up by Dickens, himself:
""It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...""- Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities)
For the first 11 years of Tomlin's career as head coach, the Steelers were a fun team to watch. They might not have won all the big games -- thanks in part to guys like Tom Brady -- but they were consistently good-to-great depending on the season.
From 2007-2017, Tomlin guided the Steelers to eight 10-plus win seasons, eight playoff appearances, six division titles, two AFC Championships, and one Super Bowl Championship. He had an overall record of 116-60 (.659), including an 8-7 (.533) mark in the playoffs.
But in Tomlin's last six seasons (including this season, thus far), the Steelers have had just one 10-win season, two playoff appearances, one division title, and zero trips to the AFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl. His record during this span is 54-40-2 (.573), including an 0-2 mark in the playoffs.
Yes, Tomlin has never had a losing season, although he's currently staring at one this year unless the Steelers find a way to avoid losing two of their last three games.
However, when you take a closer look at the last six seasons, you discover a disturbing pattern of seven three-game losing streaks (at least one in each season; two three-game losing streaks in 2019), losing games to bad teams, losing games to first-year head coaches, and losing games to rookie quarterbacks.
With the Christmas season here, perhaps we should equate the Steelers' current state with another Dickens classic, "A Christmas Carol". In this case, team owner Art Rooney II could play a role similar to Scrooge. He operates on the fond memories of the Steelers Standard, challenging for Super Bowls and playoff berths during many Christmas' past, while all but ignoring the last six seasons of mediocrity (Christmas present).
The Ghost of Christmas Future isn't going to issue much hope for the Steelers if Rooney doesn't make some sort of change. Maybe the answer is to trade Tomlin, or convince him to "retire". Maybe the answer is to give Tomlin a one-year ultimatum and make him hire a young, innovative, professional offensive coordinator as well as an experienced defensive coordinator who is Steelers tough. But something has to be done, and soon.
If not, you can rightfully expect Steelers' fans to exclaim "Bah Humbug" when the time comes to kick off the 2024 season. After all, it's not any fun to watch the Steelers play anymore. And a closer look at the last six seasons is a clear reason why.