Listening to some Steelers’ fans the last day or two you’d think the Steelers were 0-7 and were starting me at quarterback. That’s the nature of some fans who have high expectations. But it’s also the nature of some fans who have completely unrealistic expectations for a team dealing with significant injuries at nearly every turn. Let me provide some perspective as we head into the much-needed week off.
Head Coach Mike Tomlin has warts. Every coach in the National Football League does, even Bill Belichick. Calls for Tomlin to be fired right now are ridiculous. The Steelers don’t do in-season head coaching changes and that won’t change in this case. There are things Mike Tomlin has to answer for however and I’m not real sure he has any answers that will appease a significant portion of the fan base.
The losses to Philadelphia and Miami are acceptable. The way the losses took place is not acceptable and it continues a pattern of playing down to the competition. Furthermore, the Steelers kryptonite isn’t just teams with lesser records but it also appears to be road games in general. What happens to this team mentally when they leave Heinz Field is bizarre in my opinion.
Whether or not those trends will change over the final nine games of 2016 will remain a mystery for now. What cannot be dismissed is the fact that injuries have completely altered the way this team was going to operate this year.
Senquez Golson was going to be a major contributor to this team. Bud Dupree would have been starting at outside linebacker. Cam Heyward has missed two straight games and Ryan Shazier has (again) missed significant time due to injury. I don’t care about why these injuries occurred because they did, plain and simple. When you take away four guys from a unit of 11 it’s one thing. But these four were all expected to make big plays this season and their absences totally changed how Keith Butler wants to do things.
Offensively, Marcus Gilbert has missed several games but should return after the bye. Ben Roethlisberger has missed a game and Sammie Coates and Markus Wheaton both have been dinged up as well. Even the normally unbreakable Ramon Foster missed time due to injury. There’s very little that can be done about these guys missing time. All you can do is hope your depth pays off and by and large, it hasn’t.
That’s a drafting and evaluating type of problem and it not only goes back to Tomlin but also the front office as well.
I predicted the Steelers would go 10-6 this season and while some agreed some didn’t. They suggested higher win totals based on the firepower of the offense and the experience the defense gained last year. My thinking behind the 10-6 was based strictly on what has happened. I’ve come to expect injuries from this organization and I’ve come to expect being let down by winnable games that aren’t.
When you put everything together, you have a 4-3 record. Three wins and one loss at home and one win and two losses on the road. When you consider the injuries and the opponents 4-3 isn’t the worst place to be, especially considering how awful the rest of the AFC North appears to be.
Even if the team remains relatively healthy and makes the playoffs I expect there to be some changes. There were none following last season and that status quo attitude won’t happen again. Still, let’s keep perspective. There is a lot of talent and there was a lot to like even in a loss on Sunday. Despite all that has gone on in 2016, the Steelers still largely control their own destiny outside of the Patriots.
Once the 2016 season is over, then we can decide who needs to stay and who needs to go. Until then, keep things in the proper perspective.