PITTSBURGH (93-7 THE FAN) — The Steelers entered 2013 with a lot to prove, especially head coach Mike Tomlin, but all that was proven in a season-opening 16-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans at Heinz Field is that not enough has changed since 2012.
The running game was invisible, and the offense, on the whole, appeared lifeless. Players brought in to address needs on that side of the ball, namely running back Felix Jones, were conspicuously quiet. Meanwhile, the Steelers lost the turnover battle, and fans, by the end of the third quarter, had lost their patience.
Bleacher Report featured Steelers columnist Chris G. says it’s time the organization held Tomlin very accountable for some of the problems that have persisted since the team’s last Super Bowl appearance–problems that led to a 2012 postseason absence.
“As the clock ticked down and the final score read 16-9 in favor of the Titans, much of the talk leaving the stadium included phrases such as ‘top-10 pick’ and ‘4-12 record.’ It was not just a loss to start the season, but one that exposed all of the problems the Steelers have had the past four or five seasons,” he writes. “But with less talent on the roster, these problems have become magnified.”
“We’ve just got to understand what the standard is, and that’s not up to the standard. We better work to play to it. We’re capable. We’re good enough to win football games. We’re good enough to win that game today, not taking anything away from the Tennessee Titans. They did a great job. We did not,” Tomlin told the media after Sunday’s game.
“OK, Mike, we get it: ‘The standard is the standard.’ That sounds great and all, but when is Tomlin going to hold himself to that standard?” Chris G. responds. “These problems the Steelers are already facing have been a constant since Tomlin has taken over as head coach.”
Specifically, he points to team discipline, game management, and personnel selection as warts not sufficiently masked by Tomlin, who led the Steelers to the playoffs in four of his first six years on the job.
“Despite constant injuries on the offensive line, he continues to dress just seven linemen. Once again, a lineman was injured, and the Steelers were dangerously thin with only one man left on the bench,” he elaborates. “Meanwhile, five wide receivers dressed, with Derek Moye as the fifth receiver. He is the tallest receiver on the roster yet was nowhere to be found when the Steelers were deep in the Titans’ territory. If he isn’t going to play in the red zone, why activate him?
“Beyond this, his management of the running backs never ceases to amaze me. Two fumbles sent Isaac Redman to the bench, and rather than go with Felix Jones—who beat out Jonathan Dwyer for a job—he went to LaRod Stephens-Howling.”
Click here to read the full post by Chris G.
Fans need no reminder of how loyal the Steelers can be to team management. Chuck Noll became one of the most tenured head coaches in league history despite a number of uninspiring seasons in the 1980’s, and the Rooneys were willing to stick with Bill Cowher despite some bad finishes and equally fruitless draft classes in the late 1990’s.
That faith was ultimately rewarded with a Super Bowl win, and with the foundation laid for another after Cowher’s exit. It didn’t take Tomlin long to escape his shadow, but how long will the Steelers stay patient with Tomlin while the demons of 2011 and 2012 continue to haunt them?