You won’t hear anyone around the Pittsburgh Steelers’ facility use the term “rebuild” but that’s exactly where this team is whether Art Rooney II, Omar Khan or Mike Tomlin want to admit it or not. That doesn’t mean this has to be a complete teardown and rebuild from the ground up – there are too many good pieces for that – but one question remains. Is Mike Tomlin the best guy to be in charge of doing it?
When Mike Tomlin took over for Bill Cowher in 2007, he inherited a franchise quarterback, a Hall of Fame Defensive Coordinator, a veteran Offensive Coordinator and one of the best defenses in pro football. Despite my overall disdain for the “he only won with Bill Cowher’s players” mantra, the fact remains he did win with many of Cowher’s best. Troy Polamalu, Heath Miller, Aaron Smith and Hines Ward among them.
Tomlin once again has an extremely high-priced defense but this one isn’t in the same ballpark as the one he inherited. T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick still have several years ahead of them but Cam Heyward is far closer to the end than the beginning. The rest of the defense, with a few exceptions like Alex Highsmith for example is lacking, especially when it comes to covering receivers and making splash plays.
Offensively, Tomlin is nursing a rookie quarterback along. Guiding him is an offensive coordinator who would be lucky to land the same job with a Top 25 team in college football right now. Najee Harris is suddenly showing some signs of what he did last year but the offensive line and receiving corps are predictably inconsistent. as is the play-calling.
Tomlin finds himself seemingly surrounded by “yes men” who are a far cry from the Dick LeBeau’s and Bruce Arians’ of his beginning years. Matt Canada and Teryl Austin are complete, opposite ends of the spectrum and everyone sees it except maybe Coach T himself. This begs the question… Is Mike Tomlin the right guy to lead this rebuild?
When he moved in, the place was already a mansion with numerous amenities. Only a few upgrades were required. Now? Oh there are amenities as I mentioned above but there are way more upgrades needed and tremendous patience will be required. Tomlin needs to find assistants who won’t always agree with every shade of paint or style of flooring that he believes will work. Is Tomlin willing to admit this might be in his best interest?
There are coaches who build, coaches who maintain and coaches who can do both. We know which one Tomlin is capable of but he’s now faced with the rebuild that he’s never had to face before. Whether he chooses to pick up the floor plans and put a construction helmet on is up to him because he’s not leaving unless he decides to do so.