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Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin listens to a question while meeting with reporters following a 26-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)

The time has come.  The Mike Tomlin era needs to be over in Pittsburgh.  Barring some miracle run that gets the Steelers to the Super Bowl, the Black and Gold must move on.

Why should the Steelers move on from a coach who has never had a losing season, you are probably asking…

While it’s true; Tomlin has never had a losing season, the only thing that matters to Pittsburgh, or should, at least, is winning championships.  Not of the division title variety, but of the Super Bowl variety.  Tomlin did win one, 10 years ago, he did appear in another one, eight years ago, and he’s gone 3-5 in the postseason ever since (when he’s made it).

Of those five postseason losses, you can count the devastating loss at Denver to the Tim Tebow-led Broncos in 2012 and the disastrous home loss to the Blake Bortles-led Jacksonville Jaguars last season by the score of 45-42.

Neither of those should have been losses, yet either way, had the team won, they never would have gotten past the New England Patriots in the following round, a team that up until this season, Tomlin hasn’t been able to beat in seven years.

Turns out, that victory over the Patriots may have been the Steelers’ Super Bowl this year.  If you’re OK with that, you’re not seeing the bigger picture.

Nobody involved with the Steelers in any capacity, ownership, management, players or fans, should ever be accepting of the Steelers’ most exciting moment of the season being a regular season victory over the Patriots. Yet here we are, in the Mike Tomlin era.

Ask yourself, are you OK with that?

Are you OK with “winning seasons” that end up falling short of the ultimate goal, a championship?  If so, go get involved with a team like the Browns who would kill for that.

But this is Pittsburgh, a city of champions. Falling short is not acceptable. Is the standard too high? Perhaps it is but as Tomlin would say, “The standard is the standard.” Quite frankly, he’s not living up to that standard at this point.

It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that good coaches often get fired. I’m not saying Tomlin wouldn’t or shouldn’t be picked up by another team should the Steelers part ways with him. He’d be the hottest coach available, understandably, but what I’m saying quite simply is, he’s lost his voice in Pittsburgh. He’s been tuned out, moved on from internally, lost respect of the players.

There have been far too many discipline issues off the field with the antics of Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown to name a few.  Let’s not forget that when Ben Roethlisberger was having his off-field issues years ago, that was on Tomlin’s watch, too.

Or how about the National anthem flap in 2017 and how poorly that was handled?

I could go on.

The Martavis Bryant disaster.

The Joey Porter bar fight. Oh, and just as a reminder, this was when Porter was a coach!

The list goes on.

You cannot have a successful team on the field if you don’t hold your players accountable both on and OFF of it. Just look at Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati to understand that.

But the discipline issues aren’t just off the field, they are on it as well.  The Steelers rank 28th in penalty yards this season, 9th in 2017 (that’s good, no argument), 26th in 2016, 19th in 2015, 15th in 2014, 4th in 2013 (I’m amazed) 24th in 2012 and 22nd in 2011 (the season after they last went to the Super Bowl). That’s an average of 18th in the league, bottom half in other words. Championship football doesn’t  consist of averaging 18th in the league in penalty yards given up, I can tell you that much right now. If you think that’s acceptable, go root for the Bengals where it is acceptable, and oh by the way, where they don’t win championships.

Tomlin has never put the hammer down on these players.  Bill Cowher’s teams averaged 6th in the league his last three years, which were the first three years I was able to pull for this data.

My point is, I don’t want to hear the argument that this has always been how the Steelers play football, it hasn’t.

Yet if it were just discipline, perhaps that could be lived with. Yet Tomlin is a terrible game manager, can’t handle clock management, use his timeouts properly or even make in-game adjustments. He’s brazen at the wrong times and calls bone-headed plays like the fake punt this past week vs. the Saints (Dec. 23) in a game that had their entire season on the line.  The idea of failing and giving Drew Brees the ball with less than half a field to go apparently didn’t matter to Tomlin. He called it, it failed, season over.

But it’s not just the bad decisions in-game. It’s the lack of prep pregame. The season-opening tie to the Browns, the losses at Denver and at Oakland, the blown fourth-quarter lead to the Chargers, any one of these games can be looked upon this season as the one that cost them a playoff spot.

When you’re a team like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers, the expectations are to win it all, not just make the playoffs.  It’s not happening anymore.

Just like in Philadelphia with Andy Reid or in Green Bay with Mike McCarthy, the teams had to move on after a while, things just got stale.  Both guys were great, successful coaches for those two organizations. McCarthy even has a Super Bowl title under his belt, like Tomlin does (by beating Tomlin in fact), yet the Packers saw it was time to move on.

McCarthy had an all-world quarterback with Aaron Rodgers and the team didn’t want to waste his last remaining years not winning it all.

Tomlin has an all-world quarterback with Roethlisberger, an all-world receiver with Brown and another one with JuJu Smith-Schuster, an amazing offensive line and he had an all-world running back with Bell when he was in town as well, yet the team consistently falls short.

With talent like that on the roster, it shouldn’t be acceptable to consistently fall short of the ultimate goal. The window is about to close and what do the Steelers have to show for it?  At this point, nothing.

Tomlin came over as a defensive specialist and when Keith Butler was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2015, it was proclaimed that Tomlin would be heavily involved in the defensive schematics and game-planning. It is widely known that he was very involved in the 45-42 loss to the Jaguars at home this past January 2018 in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The defense has been far less than stellar in the last four years and it was downright atrocious in that playoff loss and there are absolutely no arguments about that.

If the head coach can’t utilize his “specialty” and improve the team, then what can he do?

Well who would they hire, you are probably saying.  You’re saying there aren’t many other coaches in the league you would take over Tomlin.

OK, fine, that may be true. But would you have taken Tomlin in 2007 over anybody?  Probably not. Would you have taken Cowher before him in 1992 over anyone? Doubtful.

Yet, the Steelers did. They have an incredible ability to find hidden talent and hire them and win with them. So if you’re the kind of person who’s afraid of change because you think they can’t replace Tomlin, you’re a doubter of the Rooneys. They have proven over and over again that the success the team has had starts from the top with them and then it funnels down to the field. Why wouldn’t they be able to do it again?  There is no reason.

The front office hires the coaches and provides the talent, it’s up to those coaches to win with that talent that is provided.

Tomlin has a lot of talent in that locker room but he’s not getting the job done with it any longer.

Ask Rocky Bleier how he feels about this team under Tomlin, aside from the “I’m Done” comment.

“With three games remaining, the Steelers’ destiny lies in their hands, but it is shaky with the Patriots, Saints and Bengals on the horizon. How they fare will dictate the team’s future and it may be without [head coach Mike] Tomlin.”

I don’t expect him to be fired anytime soon but it’s about that time the Steelers should consider it. If however, Tomlin does bring another Lombardi back to Pittsburgh someday, I’ll write a raving review of him and admit my mistake in judging him. This is in print, hold me to it.

Until that happens though, don’t hold your breath.

 

MIKE PELAIA
COURIER STEELERS CENTRAL

 

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