If after today, the Pittsburgh Steelers go on to win their next 16 games or the division title or a playoff game, then I’ll gladly eat every word of what I’m about to say. I don’t normally overreact. Being honest and pragmatic is what I’ve built this site on rather than being judgmental and quick-to-blame but something was different today. The Steelers didn’t just lose, they were manhandled. They were two steps behind everything the San Francisco 49ers did. They zigged and we zagged and there wasn’t a single player out there today in Black and Gold who can look in the mirror and say otherwise. So what are the words I’ll gladly eat should the opportunity arise? Mike Tomlin’s job needs to be in jeopardy.
Now first of all, I’m not naive. I know his job is as secure as anyone else in the League and he isn’t going anywhere soon but but there has to be warmth under his seat. What occurred today wasn’t just a “really good team beating another really good team.” Instead, it was a really good team smacking around a team that thought it was on the same level. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Brock Purdy looked like the guy drafted in the first round rather than being Mr. Irrelevant. If anyone was “irrelevant” it was Kenny Pickett who couldn’t have hit the confluence from a boat. Brandon Aiyuk looked like what we thought Diontae Johnson was supposed to be. He was unstoppable as no Steelers’ defensive back had an answer for him.
Did you see the Steelers’ inside linebackers today? If you did raise a hand because I sure didn’t. The 49ers linebackers? Oh I saw them. They were what inside linebackers are supposed to be. Fast, aggressive and able to make tackles on a consistent basis. The San Francisco defensive line had their way all day while the Steelers’ D-Line may as well have been ghosts as Christian McCaffery went by them, around them and over them.
But worse than all of the above was how badly the Steelers were outcoached. They had no answer for anything Kyle Shanahan did. Sure, coaches don’t miss assignments and don’t miss tackles and so on but these players weren’t even close to prepared today and that’s on Mike Tomlin. You’ll notice I didn’t say “they weren’t ready to play.” In the NFL, that’s a player’s job to be motivated. In terms of being prepared for what the opponent will do? That’s on the coaches. And Mike Tomlin’s staff failed miserably.
Need an example? Let’s go back to the second play of the game. Yep. I’m going there… After a six yard pickup, Steelers Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada called for a jet sweep. On the second play of the game!! There was no effort to set up the play. There were no other plays with which Canada could set it up! It was like calling a flea-flicker on the first play. It’s way more effective when you establish the run, force the safeties down and you know, set it up!
But don’t blame Canada. Blame Tomlin. The team could have easily afforded the $700,000 to part ways with Canada but instead they chose to stick with him. If the season continues on this trajectory all Canada’s situation will do is conjure up more excuses about why Pickett didn’t meet his lofty expectations. A new OC will come in and we’re right back to square one.
I’ve always said Mike Tomlin is a good coach. You don’t win as many games for as long as he’s won games and not know what you’re doing. But a great coach? No, I’m not going there. Too many postseason failures and not enough postseasons period in recent seasons. There’s a long way to go in this season and plenty of time to right the ship but Mike Tomlin needs to feel some heat. His team finally had a season opener at home and his team stunk. Those are words I don’t need to eat because they’re true. After all, he’s the one who said after today’s game that it was a “failure in all areas.” That starts with him.