The Rooney family must part ways with head coach Mike Tomlin if the Pittsburgh Steelers fail to make the NFL postseason.
“Man, I’m going to embrace the elephant in the room, it’s going to be fireworks,” Tomlin said. “It’s probably going to be part one, and that’s going to be a big game. But probably, if we’re both doing what we’re supposed to do, the second one is really going to be big. And what happens in the first is going to set up the second one, and determine the location in the second one.”
Those words were from Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin last year ahead of his team’s matchup against the New England Patriots.
A little more than a year later, the Steelers find themselves in a precarious position. They take on the Patriots this Sunday at Heinz Field with their season teetering in the balance, and just like last year, they found themselves prematurely looking ahead to the game against their AFC nemesis.
After suffering a shocking loss to the Oakland Raiders (24-21), the Steelers fell to 7-5-1 on the season. Oakland has been one of the worst teams in the NFL all season, so losing to them should be a cause for concern. More importantly, the loss by Pittsburgh managed to keep the Baltimore Ravens hopes of winning the AFC North alive. Despite the half-game lead they maintain over the Ravens — who lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in overtime (27-24) — the Steelers are trending in the wrong direction at the wrong time.
After starting 7-2-1, they have lost three consecutive games and are in real danger of missing the playoffs with the Patriots and New Orleans Saints coming up.
This season has been a microcosm of the Steelers organization during the Tomlin/Roethlisberger era: filled with drama, inconsistency, and internal strife.
If the Steelers miss the playoffs this season, the Rooney family needs to part ways with Tomlin.
I know, firing him goes against everything the organization has established. Stability has been one of the main staples they preach which is why they’ve had only three head coaches in the past 49 years: Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Tomlin. However, given the talent they have assembled on their roster coupled with the division they play in, they should be perennial contenders for a Super Bowl birth every year.
Make no mistake; the Steelers are lucky to have Tomlin. His résumé speaks for itself. It features a record of 123-65-1 which is good enough for a .653 winning percentage. He also has two Super Bowl appearances including a victory in Super Bowl 43 where he became the youngest head coach to lead a team to a championship, and he has the second-best winning percentage amongst active head coaches in the NFL today behind Bill Belichick.
However, despite all the success he has, his teams have also underachieved. The Steelers have never been deficient in the talent department, as they’ve featured some of the most talented skilled players on offense and defense in NFL history. The problem is and has always been they are an erratic team.
Right now I see a fractured football team.
All-pro running back Le’Veon Bell is no longer with the team. The veteran quarterback has questionable decision making both on the field (especially in the red zone) and at the podium, and Tomlin has never been the kind of coach that holds his players accountable.
The NFL isn’t like the NBA or Major League Baseball. Coaching most certainly matters. At 36, we all know Roethlisberger is on the back nine of his career. With him alluding to retiring last year, investing in him for the short term promises to be an emotional roller coaster.
But the Green Bay Packers situation with Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy taught us all we needed to know. The Packers fired McCarthy because he and Rodgers could not co-exist any longer. The same workplace dynamic exists between Tomlin and Roethlisberger.
The trust is gone. The two have different philosophies on the best path to success. Things will get worse before they get better in Pittsburgh.
Discipline, or lack thereof, has been the Achilles heel for this team over the years. It’s a theme Tomlin is all too familiar with, and one his detractors wish he would correct. Tomlin has a reputation for being emotional, as does his team. It’s no surprise year in, year out the Steelers are one of the most penalized teams in the NFL. Players tend to take on the personality of the coach that is leading them.
I’m not saying that Tomlin shouldn’t occupy one of the 32 head coaching jobs in the NFL, I’m just saying he shouldn’t hold the one in Pittsburgh.