Tag Archives: Mike Tomlin

2016-2017 Steelers Season Review

It was a statement season for the greatest “cheerleader” in football. As someone who’s become very critical of head coach Mike Tomlin, I’m giving him his due. He turned this team around at a time when they seemed like they were going to fall apart. 

They lost arguably their best defensive player for the season and got trampled by a struggling Miami team (who eventually turned it around and made the playoffs). They lost their franchise quarterback and lost to top-seed New England. They lost to arch-rival Baltimore in a sloppy game where Big Ben probably came back to quickly and Chris Boswell did his best riverdance impression. They lost a nail-biter at home to Dallas, a game they had in hand with 42 seconds remaining, only to commit a bad facemask penalty and then allow Ezekiel Elliott to walk into the endzone, giving the game away. 

4-1 turned to 4-5 quickly. They were in a tailspin, heading straight down to crash and burn, turning what some were calling a Super Bowl contender into another underachieving team. Many in Steeler Nation started to call for Mike Tomlin’s head, or at least became very critical of him. I know I did. This is a guy who’s had a generational quarterback for his entire tenure as head coach, and has one playoff win in the past five years; a game that was handed to him by Cincinnati in a way only they could pull off. Mike Tomlin’s regular season success goes without saying, but his 6-5 mediocre playoff record leaves something to be desired. 

And here we are – playoff bound. AFC NORTH Champions. How did Tomlin turn 4-5 into 11-5?

I believe it was a team effort from the top down, starting with Tomlin, and all the way down to the water boy. The sense of urgency picked up, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The defense drastically improved over the course of the seven-game winning streak to end the season. They were a bend-but-don’t-break defense, but that’s all they really need to be. They finished as the 12th-ranked defense at season’s end, and I don’t think anyone predicted the defense finishing in the top half of the league. Tomlin demanded performance from his players and they responded. They took care of the teams they should have, and they fought hard to the very end in the games they needed to win the most.

Go ahead and ask any of Tomlin’s players if they think he’s a cheerleader. Go ahead. None of them do.

I’m critical of Tomlin and don’t think he’s a great coach. He won’t even admit that he is. He said it’s not on his resumé yet. He’s not a bad coach though, and he’s certainly not just a great cheerleader. He turned the team around from potentially missing the playoffs to division champions and the third seed in the AFC Playoffs. 

A lot of credit is due all around for the Steelers. Tomlin is one. The star power of the black and gold is another. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown are the way for the Steelers to win a Super Bowl. They don’t win one unless all three play at a high level. They’re the biggest reason the Steelers are where they are. Ben may not have had the big statistical year like he did in 2014, but everyone will remember his game-winning drive against Baltimore. You know, the one where he completed all but two passes (those two incompletions were spikes)? 

Antonio Brown is a beast. He put up another stellar season with no consistent second target for Ben to rely on. That means AB was double and triple covered all year. And man, that “immaculate extension” was just…immaculate.

Le’Veon Bell. You can agree with me or you can disagree, but he’s the best back in the league. He’s a threat every time he touches the ball, wherever he touches it, however he touches it. Oh, and he touches the ball more than any other back in the league. He’s the ultimate workhorse. Those touches aren’t wasted either. He led all players in yards from scrimmage per game. He can run you over. He can juke you. He can hurdle you. There’s nothing he can’t do from the running back position. There’s a reason why his teammates voted him team MVP.

Don’t forget about the rookies either. They played a huge role in the defense stepping it up down the stretch. Artie Burns became the Steelers best cover corner. He’s still young, and yes, he got burned a few times, but that happens with young corners. Give him a couple years. He has potential to be an elite shutdown corner. 

Sean Davis is my Steelers Rookie of the Year. He made the safety tandem along with Mike Mitchell a pretty good one. Davis is one of the better tacklers on this defense and has really good football instincts. He’s not Troy Polamalu, but he’s another solid piece of that defense.

Javon Hargrave had a big year stepping in a larger role once Cam Heyward went down for the year. Along with Stephon Tuitt, he helped solidly the defensive line, allowing them to win battles in the trench to help stop the run and, more importantly, create pressure on the quarterback, which is something the Steelers struggled mightily to do early in the season.

The Steelers were nearly dead and gone. Just over half the season was gone and they were under .500. They took a long look in the mirror, lowered their heads, and fought back every second of every game. Now they’re 11-5; AFC North Champions. 

The stairway to seven starts at home against Miami; the team that dealt the Steelers the first loss of their four-game skid. It’s the perfect way to start the climb towards greatness. Here we go.

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CH Column: I’m Pulling My Support of Mike Tomlin

The election is over. Half of America is happy while the other half is in disbelief and dismay. After months and months of campaigning, it’s finally all over. We have our President-elect.

There is another campaign going on recently that is picking up a lot of steam on social media and other outlets: those defending Mike Tomlin to the grave and those calling for his head. 

For his entire tenure, I’ve been a Tomlin supporter. I’ve been fairly critical of his time management and other blunders, but still supported him and defended him as the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m done. I can’t anymore. When you look at certain statistics that are extremely mind-bottling (I recently re-watched Blades of Glory), it’s hard to campaign for a coach that’s severely underachieved. 

I’m a member of a Steelers fan page on Facebook, and a discussion broke out of people comparing Tomlin to Bill Cowher. People, it’s not even close. People look at the surface and say, “Tomlin had the same amount of Conference championships and Super Bowl championships as Cowher, but in 5 less years!” They’ll also say, “Tomlin’s never had a losing season, while Cowher had three!” And when you look at that and only those points, you might think it’d be hard to vote against Tomlin. Oh boy, you are so wrong.

First off, Bill Cowher had nothing at quarterback for his entire tenure until Big Ben was drafted. We’re talking about Bubby Brister, Neil O’Donnell, Mike Tomzack, Kent Graham, Kordell Stewart, and Tommy Maddox. He had NOTHING. He couldn’t get a franchise quarterback. Yet, he went to four conference championships and one Super Bowl without one, and nearly beat the team of the 90’s in Super Bowl XXX, if it weren’t for, guess who: his quarterback. As soon as Cowher got a franchise quarterback, he went 15-1 and went to the AFC Championship in 2004, and won the Super Bowl in 2005. It took him only two years to get to the top of the mountain once he got an elite quarterback. Also remember, that Cowher and GM Kevin Colbert built the 2005 team. 

Let’s look at Tomlin. Tomlin inherited a team one year removed from a Super Bowl victory, with the majority of the team still in place. Some key guys were gone (Bettis, Faneca, Porter), but the majority of that team was in place. He also inherited a franchise quarterback. Now, I give Tomlin credit. The team can be extremely talented and have all the right players, but you still need someone to captain the ship to lead you to the top of the mountain. Tomlin did that in 2008. He may not have built that team, but he led them there. Bad coaches don’t win Super Bowls, but average ones can. But as time has gone on, and more and more of Cowher’s players have left, it’s become more and more Tomlin’s team. As a matter of fact, the only player left drafted under Cowher’s regime is Ben Roethlisberger. And as it’s become more and more of Tomlin’s team, they’ve gotten worse and worse. 

Since 2012, Tomlin’s team is 19-23 vs teams that are .500 or worse. Well-coached teams don’t lose to teams they should be beating. If it weren’t for Cincinnati giving away a win in the playoffs last year (in a game where Tomlin couldn’t even control his own coaches’ behavior), ZERO playoff wins in five years. This is all with one of the best quarterbacks of his generation, arguably the best all-around running back in the league, and arguably the best receiver in football. Now, the Steelers can’t win the Super Bowl every year, but you’d expect some better performances than sub-.500 against bad teams. You’d expect more playoff wins. You’d also expect a defensive-minded coach to have a better defense than one of the worst in the last three years. And as we look toward Sunday against the 7-1 Dallas Cowboys, I have friends that are Cowboy fans (I live in Dallas) asking me what I think is going to happen on Sunday. I’ve been saying, “I have no idea.” I don’t. I never know what team is going to show up on Sunday. You either get the team that killed Washington and Kansas City, or the team that looked like a high school team against Miami and Baltimore. Well-coached teams are CONSISTENT. The Steelers are far from that. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Steelers won on Sunday 42-10 or lost 38-3. Consistent doesn’t mean you win every week, but you get the same team with the same effort week in and week out. This past week is just another example of poor coaching. The Steelers had one first down in the first three quarters of the game. They played horribly in a week coming off of a bye, where you have an extra week to prepare. Players like Ben and Le’Veon Bell are questioning effort and tightness of practices. Fox Sports’ radio host Colin Cowherd uses a perfect term to describe the Steelers: they’re not “buttoned up.” 105.9’s Mark Madden claims Tomlin is a player’s coach and that they have an “expiration date.” I’m not the only one who’s seeing it, folks. Tomlin is losing the handle on his team year after year, game after game. 

Mike Tomlin isn’t a bad coach. He’s just not the right coach. I fully believe the Steelers don’t win another Super Bowl under Tomlin. I hope he makes me eat my words, but the last 5 years of inconsistency is enough fuel for me to get the engine running on my campaign against Tomlin. I still support and love the team, but Tomlin is not the coach everyone thinks he is. And he sure as heck is not Bill Cowher.