In his final press conference of the disappointing 2012 season, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Head Coach Mike Tomlin was for the most part his usual self. Watching and listening to a Tomlin presser is often like trying to decipher a Little Orphan Annie Decoder ring. It starts out with all kinds of anticipation and then leaves you feeling completely perplexed and disappointed.
In other words, Tomlin can often say much with few words or as is more often the case, he says much with little substance or information to the listener. I did however hear one thing from that final presser last week that I believe Tomlin could not have been more correct about and it’s something all of us as fans should be watching intently for next year.
I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but Tomlin essentially said, “Great teams don’t make great plays during games, the make plays when the moments are great and we didn’t do that this year.”
He could not have been more right and I can see those words either coming back to haunt him in 2013 or perhaps allowing him to show the improvement we desperately want to see. Tomlin needs to learn how to put his team in better positions to ‘win those moments.’
Letting kicker Shaun Suisham try anything outside of 50 yards is a bad move and Tomlin has done it all too often and it has cost him as it did in the Tennessee game this past season. I will more often than not side with coaches over fans but when he trots out ‘Shushi’ from anything 50 and beyond, the entire fan base starts to have coronaries. More often than not, those heart attacks are justified.
Obviously Tomlin can only do so much as a coach. He can trust that his coordinators can get players in the proper positions from which to be successful and then ultimately it’s up to the players to execute. That was a significant reason as to why Bruce Arians was let go because the feeling was that the players just weren’t executing the way they should be in ‘critical moments.’
Ben Roethlisberger has to play better in crucial situations and he certainly doesn’t need me to tell him that because he knows. Interceptions against Dallas and Cincinnati in back-to-back games were back-breakers and are exactly the ‘moments’ Tomlin is talking about. Why and how Roethlisberger and the offense get in those situations is another story, but the offense still needs to perform better at the crucial moments.
When Tomlin discussed these great moments, he wasn’t focusing solely on the offense either. Dick LeBeau’s defense may have ranked number one in the league but they too came up short in critical moments in games. Part of that is the lack of takeaways that burdened this team for the second straight year. Part of getting those takeaways is getting pressure on the quarterback and the defense fell short in that area as well.
We already know that LaMarr Woodley had his worst season but other guys have to get to the passer in critical moments too. Like the offense, that isn’t all on lack of player execution. LeBeau’s defense has become too predictable and schematically easy to game plan for in specific situations.
Tomlin’s comments to me, were shots across several bows. Todd Haley, Dick LeBeau, the players and most importantly Tomlin himself need to take heed. If this team has a similar season in 2013 and a lack of big plays at ‘critical moments’ is a major cause then Tomlin and his staff could and should be in trouble.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.