There were so many things that went wrong for the Steelers, in the week 12 loss to the Browns, not the least of which was the 6 fumbles (4 of them lost) by the running backs. No sense going back and reliving the 3 interceptions by Charlie Batch and the final fumble on the last drive of the game; but hey, who’s counting?
For the last month or so Mike Tomlin has preached about going with the hot hand in his backfield; and Sunday afternoon he definitely tried to stick with it. You fumble, you’re gone, next man up. They fumble, they’re gone, next man up, rinse and repeat. It was an ugly thing to watch that was frustrating after the first 2 or 3 and then became literally comical as the keystone kops ball carriers repeatedly gave the game back to Cleveland.
As I mentioned previously, credit the opportunistic Browns defense for playing take away with Mendenhall, Dwyer, Rainey, and Redman. They hit harder and more often than the Steelers defense did; even as good as Dick Lebeau’s unit played. If the Steelers want to preach splash plays on defense, the Browns definitely got the message.
As far as the running backs go though, is there really still a hot hand for Mike Tomlin to play? I would say yes, and I would also venture to take it a step further and say that if he doesn’t pull every player after just one fumble, perhaps things are different.
There’s no excuse to fumble the ball, ever but in defense of Kirby Wilson’s group, none of them could have any confidence knowing they were going to get yanked if they coughed it up. A position like RB is one where they get better as the game goes on. They get a feel for how things are going in the game and gradually get better into the second half so by the end of the game they have worn out the defense.
Nobody ever got a chance to do that on Sunday in Cleveland. Perhaps none of them would have gotten 100 yds rushing but I don’t think you would have seen Jonathan Dwyer fumble 6 times either.
Rashard Mendenhall got the start, and I could see Tomlin pulling him after putting it on the ground twice, I get that. However who’s to say he actual would have coughed it up had he stayed in the game? Maybe he’s able to adjust his grip on the ball and keep it tucked away from prying arms.
The same goes for Jonathan Dwyer or Isaac Redman. One fumble doesn’t constitute anything other than 1 fumble; but it does crush your confidence when you get pulled for it. I’d be hard pressed to believe that Dwyer or Chris Rainey weren’t looking over their shoulders when they came in. You just can’t play football like that.
Clearly Mike Tomlin didn’t believe any of them had the ability to come back after a miscue.
What if the Minnesota Vikings pulled Adrian Peterson every time he fumbled? He coughed it up 25 times since he came into the league in 2007. In the first 3 years alone he gave it away 20 times but since then it’s only been 5 fumbles. There’s no way the Vikings are winning at all if he’s not in the lineup consistently.
Tomlin is preaching going with the hot hand, which I’m personally in favor of but at the same time just pick a hand and go with it. Look at Cleveland, they run Trent Richardson into the ground and he’s still able to keep on truckin. Sometimes you have to just ride that horse till it drops; and in the case of the Steelers, what they’ve done hasn’t worked so far so perhaps a new thought process is in order.
The whole NFL world saw the Steelers with their “you take the ball…no I don’t want it you take it” disaster and that simply cannot happen again. Even if you want to send a message to your team as a coach, send it during the week in practice and then give things a chance to work before pulling the plug.
After all, it’s not like Cleveland was ever capable of capitalizing on all those gifts the Steelers gave them.