The Pittsburg Steelers are one of the most storied franchises in NFL history. Six times they have hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, the most by any team in league history. However, the last time Pittsburgh won it all was back in 2009.
Currently, in the 2016 season, the Steelers are losers of four-straight with an overall record of 4-5. The most recent loss came this past Sunday at the hands of Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and the red-hot Dallas Cowboys.
Obviously Steeler Nation isn’t accustomed to losing records and they are not happy about the current state of the team. So who is to blame for the recent woes of the Black and Gold?
If you were to ask a majority of the Steeler fan base, the answer would be head coach Mike Tomlin and his coaching staff.
Tomlin took over for Bill Cowher in 2007 and since then has won a Super Bowl and won two AFC North titles. FS1’s Colin Cowherd was critical of Tomlin earlier this season for his lack of Super Bowls and divisional crowns. Cowherd brought up some quality points. He said that the AFC has been dominated by three future Hall of Fame quarterbacks; Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger. He said with a quarterback of that caliber, in a division with Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco as quarterbacks, along with the lowly Cleveland Browns, the Steelers should have won more in that time frame.
Two issues Roethlisberger addressed after the loss to Dallas were discipline and accountability. Those two things are directly on the head coach. Sure, the players have to perform, but if they aren’t put in a position to succeed, or aren’t being held accountable when they aren’t being disciplined, that reflects directly on the head coach.
Time and time again over the past couple of seasons, the Steelers have fallen to below-.500 teams in games they should have won. Often times in those games, it seemed as if the Steelers were prepared for a cake walk, but then got beat for not being properly prepared. As a head coach, especially a head coach for the Steelers, that simply cannot happen.
Under the Tomlin regime, the team has done a pedestrian job when it comes to drafting. Tomlin did not want to run a 3-4 defense when he took over, but the Rooney family wanted to stick to the roots that helped lead the Steelers to six Super Bowl trophies. Often times, the Steelers have drafted players that would fit more in a 4-3 or a hybrid style of defense. Also, the Steelers have not done the greatest job at developing young talent to fit their system.
Pittsburgh failed to address the secondary which was something that needed vamped up. This year, they drafted Artie Burns and Sean Davis to help out the secondary. While the jury is still out, the Steelers aren’t seeing the return in these two rookie, but again, they are just rookies in this league.
Legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was essentially forced out of his job and was replaced by linebackers’ coach Keith Butler in 2015. In 2016, the defense under Butler is not getting the job done. The Steelers’ defense used to be known as the Steel Curtain, but these days, it’s looking more like a silk curtain. The days of being able to stop the run and pressure the quarterback are a thing of the past. Currently, Pittsburgh ranks 25th in total yards allowed at 380.8 – 102.7 of those yards on the ground – and just 13 sacks, which is tied for last in the NFL.
The defense took a huge blow on Sunday when they lost defensive end Cam Heyward for the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
Offensively, the team will go as far as Big Ben’s health permits. He had surgery a few weeks ago to repair a slight meniscus tear. To his credit and toughness, he only missed one game and was back out on the field. Sooner or later, injuries and age will catch up to him, but the Steelers have no plan in place in terms of a successor. They drafted Landry Jones out of Oklahoma in the 4th round of the 2013 draft, but Tomlin has showed little to no confidence in Jones.
Todd Haley took over for Bruce Arians, who much like LeBeau, was practically forced out of his job. Haley was the former head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs before coming over to Pittsburgh. He was the first coach in 13 years Pittsburgh hired outside the organization. He has a history of clashing with his players, including Big Ben.
The Steelers seem to have more success when they run the no-huddle offense, giving Roethlisberger control of the play-calling, pace and tempo. He has two dynamic playmakers in wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, who are both considered to be arguably the best at their respective positions.
For as great as Brown is, he needs some complimentary help, as he often draws double teams. Sammie Coates, Darius Heyward-Bay and Markus Wheaton are all banged up, so other guys need to step up. For Bell, when he is on the field, he is a multi-tool weapon out of the backfield with his running ability and pass-catching skills. However, injuries and suspensions have hampered him. These two need to be better utilized and that falls on Haley.
Tomlin often gets a pass for winning an average of 10-games per season since taking over, with no losing records and two 8-8 seasons. While many fans are calling for his job, don’t expect that to happen. The Rooney family has had just three head coaches since 1969 and value a coach like Tomlin.
The sky is dark and gloomy for the Steelers right now, but there is still time to turn things around. They have a decently favorable schedule to close out the season, including two games with the winless Browns. However, if the Steelers aren’t coached in a position to defeat the teams they should, they could be sitting at home come playoff time.
Times are tough for Steelers Nation and changes are definitely in order.