Roller coasters are very popular for a number of reasons. They take the rider on a thrill ride that features high rates of speed, quick and violent turns, literally corkscrewing through the air before one final climatic combination of everything and then the sudden stop. Since Mike Tomlin took over the Steelers in 2007, I’ve been with him on the roller coaster every step of the way. Based on what I saw Sunday night, I can no longer keep riding.
I do my very best not to have knee-jerk reactions. As angry, embarrassed and disappointed as I was all day yesterday, I remained patient and I told myself to think and not react like an idiot. So here I am some 36 hours after the failure in Foxborough and I’m honestly not feeling any different. I keep coming back to the constant thought of “what has changed with Mike Tomlin that I’m supposed to be excited about?” These are the same issues that have plagued his teams for years.
Tomlin told us afterwards his team was “not ready for primetime.” OK, you’re playing the defending champions on the night they raise their sixth Super Bowl banner but how can you not be more ready for this game? It’s the season opener! It’s on national television! Not ready for Primetime? Give me a break.
But then the game itself turned into a microcosm of recent Steelers’ games in New England. The offensive gameplan centered around Ben Roethlisberger getting rid of the ball so fast that he didn’t even want to get through his progressions. The running game was based on outside runs which is asinine against one of the faster defenses in football. In essence, Tomlin and Randy Fichtner were taking the one massive strength they had in their offensive line and took it out of the game. Look no further than the inability to gain a yard on third or fourth and short or the decision to not even try to get a yard on fourth and goal down by 20. Stop singing the praises of this offensive line if you aren’t actually going to use them.
The amusement park that has become Tomlin’s defensive coaching staff was again beaten by the Patriots in all of the same ways it has been before. Short crossing routes over the middle, timely runs to pick up five and six yards and then the deep ball that splits the safeties or in a couple of cases, just floats past them. No adjustments. No alterations in personnel. It was often like watching a little kid swing and miss at a pinata over and over expecting to hit it but not even being close. In fact what it has become is insanity.
I have had my moments in the past where I found fault with a lot of what Mike Tomlin has done or didn’t do but I always stuck by him and gave him the benefit of the doubt. It will not surprise me at all to see this team win on Sunday and still end up 10-6 but my confidence in that has been shaken to the core. One game should never define a season but after what I witnessed on Sunday night I’m struggling not to do just that.
Some coaches can wear out their welcome. The message gets stale and the players no longer buy into what the coach is preaching. I’m starting to believe this is happening in Pittsburgh. I can’t stay on this Tomlin roller coaster much longer. The enjoyment that was once there has been replaced by complacency and poor preparation. I really hope I’m wrong but either way it’s time for me to get off this ride.
Photo credit timedaily.net