In 2008, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Head Coach Mike Tomlin was given the opportunity to be more “involved” with player evaluation when it came to the rookie draft and free agency. In the past, the Steelers typically relied on their top scouts and personnel people to “shop for the groceries” while the head coach “cooked the meals.”
Take for instance the current secondary situation. Prior to the season, they went out and spent second and fourth round picks on guys who aren’t even on the active roster. The team aggressively sought out Brandon Boykin via trade with Philadelphia and he instantly became their best cover-man when he joined the team.
Fast-forward to opening night in New England. The Steelers used a secondary comprised of Mike Mitchell and Will Allen at the safety spots and William Gay and Antwon Blake on the corners. When the team went to the nickel package, Cortez Allen would come in. When the team went to the dime package, meaning six defensive backs, safety Rob Golden entered the game.
At no time did number 25 Brandon Boykin play a single snap on defense. Despite being a guy lauded by the likes of Pro Football Focus and his peers, Boykin sat on the bench while Allen, Gay , Blake and company looked like dogs chasing their tails.
I was told by sources with good knowledge of the goings-on in Pittsburgh that the decision to not use Boykin was Tomlin’s. He believed the more physical Blake and Allen would fare better against the Patriots. Sources also told me that Tomlin was “addressed” by front office members who were less than happy about Boykin not playing after the game. And this brings us to our problem.
It’s no secret the Steelers are a laughing stock when it comes to their secondary. Other teams draft cornerbacks and sign them in free agency and find ways to get them on the field. The Steelers find ways to keep them off the field. Among NFL Scouts and insiders, this is major talking point with them. Matt Williamson of ESPN said as much in interview Monday on local radio. Williamson is among many who have suggested Blake shouldn’t even be on the field with the defense.
Rather than take accountability and just say “we should have played Boykin,” Tomlin deflected it as only he can during today’s press conference.
When Tomlin was asked whether Boykin would play more on Sunday vs. the 49ers, he said, “We’ll see. We’re putting a plan together that will allow us to play the type of ball we want to play this week, and he’s a guy who’s under strong consideration.”
Why didn’t Boykin play in New England?
“We chose to play other people,” said Tomlin.
Did I just read that last part right? Give me a break. Tomlin put his ego ahead of what was best for the team. He wants to be a guy who can say he is a top evaluator of talent as well as a good coach but right now he is failing miserably. There was absolutely no reason why Boykin shouldn’t have played and if the front office isn’t happy about it then we fans sure as hell shouldn’t be either.
As hard as I’ve been on Kevin Colbert in recent years I’m starting to realize that perhaps my focus should have been elsewhere.