In the aftermath following the Steelers 13-10 loss to the Ravens Sunday night, one thing stands out for this franchise going forward.
The head coach needs to do more than provide dull quotes and tireless rhetoric.
Since his arrival to Pittsburgh in 2007, Mike Tomlin has been extremely good at handling the locker room and entertaining a room full of reporters. The former being crucial for a head coach in any professional sport, especially, football where egos are larger than the multi-million dollar houses.
As for the latter, Tomlin has been a walking book of clichés. Some of his best include "that's the nature of the business" and "next man up." His best quote from this past week when discussing how the team will deal with injuries, "excuses are tools for the incompetent." If that's true coach, then what's your excuse?
What excuse can you provide for allowing Byron Leftwich to stay in the game with what appeared to be two cracked ribs and a shoulder injury? According to Alan Robinson of the Trib, Tomlin shrugged off the injury simply stating, "He sustained some hits but that's football."
Leftwich broke two ribs and injured his throwing shoulder. Considering the arm throws the ball and the midsection requires torque to produce velocity on a throw, you could argue those are somewhat important areas to injure. All facetiousness aside, the fact that Leftwich was remained in the game despite suffering the injury on the third offensive series is mind blowing. If Tomlin -along with everyone else on the sideline- didn't see Leftwich grimacing and wincing after every play, all they had to do was look at the ball. The "zip" on Byron's passes were missing with the most glaring example occurring late in the game on a 3rd and long. Leftwich bounced a ten yard pass to Wallace.
Where is the authoritative figure? Where is the head coach who is supposed to be skilled at making quick decisions?
He waited and then did nothing.
Here's another poor decision: The Steelers are driving down the field and find themselves in the red zone with a chance to retake the lead. With the game still in the third quarter, the Steelers burn two crucial timeouts in a matter of minutes. In the end, they had to settle for a field goal while the timeouts came back to haunt them when they had the ball with a minute remaining in the game and couldn't move into field goal range. A good coach, a competent coach, organizes his team and makes sure those timeouts aren't wasted. Even if they have to burn one early, there's no excuse to call another one two plays later, especially at home.
Mike Tomlin might not like giving excuses, but he is surely showing signs of incompetence. He's drafted four Pro Bowl players in six combined drafts. Even if he's not involved in the drafting process, he is involved in developing those players, many of whom have been cut.
Last season, instead of firing his offensive coordinator like most coaches, he forced Bruce Arians to back out of Pittsburgh with a faux retirement which further complicated the situation. Then, he fired his special teams coach after the Steelers had one of their better performances on special teams the year before.
Jacoby Jones says thank you, by the way.
The Pittsburgh Steelers missed Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Troy Polamalu this past Sunday and still, they had multiple chances to win. The Ravens have an old, banged-up defense and an offense that was stuck in mud; however, due to a lack of focus, leadership, and organization by the Steelers and their brain trust, the Ravens went home with another win. You would like to think it was an off-game, but this has been a trend for several seasons. Even wins against inferior teams like the Eagles and Chiefs prove to be a constant struggle.
It is time for Mike Tomlin to stop preaching on Tuesdays and start applying his coaching on Sundays. The Steelers are still in the playoff hunt despite their injuries, but they need better coaching to stay in contention.