So what took you so long?
That’s what I’m asking national media pundits today after Sunday’s devastating loss has suddenly brought them out in droves. As Pittsburgh Steelers’ Head Coach Mike Tomlin faces his biggest game in many years, the rest of the country is finally starting to ask the questions we’ve been raising for some time now.
What they’ve noticed is the penchant for losing to lesser teams, the fact his team has lost eight of 11 to Baltimore and the inability to find defensive talent at key positions. These are things that yours truly and many other Steelers’ fans have spent countless hours discussing but now that high-profile talking heads Steven A. Smith for example) are wise to what’s going on it has truly become “news.”
Acclaimed writer Jason Whitlock laid out one of the best summations of Tomlin’s recent seasons that I have read. I’ll go so far as to say it might be the most accurate but you can judge for yourself.
Tomlin seems to be above second-guessing because he’s won a Super Bowl and coached in a second. He doesn’t get a pass in my book. Big Ben Roethlisberger, in my opinion, is in the same class as Tom Brady. Big Ben is the modern-day John Elway. Tomlin has not maximized Roethlisberger’s prime years.
It’s inexcusable for the Steelers to miss the playoffs three of four years. After Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, Tomlin’s squad is out of the playoffs unless they get some help from the Jets or the Broncos.
Tomlin consistently makes odd late-game decisions. He coaches like someone who knows he’ll never get seriously questioned. He was born on coaching third base. At a young age, he was given the most stable head-coaching position in professional sports and a franchise quarterback. He needs to do more with it. As someone who roots for Roethlisberger, the Steelers and Tomlin every season, I’m not impressed.
NFL analysts like Deion Sanders have criticized Tomlin over his personnel decisions such as the insanity that is Antwon Blake continuing to play cornerback. Tomlin was often referred to as “Teflon Tomlin” because criticism of him never seemed fair or warranted. His Super Bowl title and second Super Bowl appearance have given him more collateral with the media than most coaches will get in a lifetime.
That shine has been eroding and following the uninspiring and horrible loss to the Ravens it’s nearly gone. My colleague Chris wrote yesterday that regardless of what happens there won’t be major coaching changes and 99% of the time I’d agree. This feels different though and while it all isn’t on Tomlin, the captain of the ship takes the blame for his crew’s mistakes.
Tomlin is to be credited with navigating this team through some tough injuries in 2015 but with his team holding its own fate in its hands it failed and failed miserably. I believe this week’s game in Cleveland will be a referendum on just what kind of grip Tomlin has on this team.
While they need help to get to the postseason, the way they play on Sunday will speak volumes. If it’s already loud enough for the national media to pay attention then how noisy will it be if the Steelers lose in Cleveland….