Has Mike Tomlin lost control of the Steelers?

Has Mike Tomlin lost control of the Steelers?

Mike Tomlin certainly knows how to talk the talk.  From the mouth of this gifted orator, we’ve gotten such gems as “the standard is the standard,” and constant referrals to the members of his team as “men.”  Fine.  Great.  Sounds good, coach.

How about showing a little of that spirit when it actually comes to coaching your team?

Let’s face it, the days of the super disciplined coach are gone now.  Tom Coughlin and Mike Shanahan are holdouts from a by-gone era in coaching, but only because they shaped their style to the new crop of NFL players.

Tomlin wants to be seen as a strict, foundational guy, but he has failed miserably in his tenure with the Steelers to show actual discipline.  In fact, the team lacks self-control in so many areas that the problem can’t help but start at the top.  Tomlin may have the glibbest sound bites of any NFL coach, but he has the least control over his team — and it shows.

Players Bashing Haley

Some players have fiery tempers, and they get their knickers in a bunch when they don’t feel like they are getting the attention they deserve.  Just recently, Antonio Brown descended into a shouting match with Todd Haley on the sidelines during a game.  Many other illustrious players have done the same – Kurt Warner, anyone? – but would you expect that sort of behavior from a Steeler?

From the time Haley was appointed, Roethlisberger has made his dissatisfaction known.  Now, of course, he’s singing the praises of the man like a good little player, but the damage is done.  His speaking out against the change, his taking the problem to the media, and the continued animosity that seems to be there on Sundays is detrimental to this team.

What does this have to do with Tomlin?  It all starts with the head coach.  Do you think Cowher or Parcells would have allowed a player to criticize a coaching move?  Would a player even dare?  Absolutely not.

While Tomlin can say all he wants about how the relationship between Haley and the rest of the team is great, the evidence shows otherwise, and that’s because he can’t control his team.  His lack of discipline in punishing those who go to the media to air dirty laundry is just one way in which is bark is far worse than his bite – if he even has a bite at all.

Outside Meddling

We will probably never know who decided to fire Bruce Arians.  It’s one of those mysteries of Pittsburgh, like the bewildering warren of streets in Oakland.  Roethlisberger didn’t want him gone.  It doesn’t sound like Tomlin wanted him gone.  The only one left is the owner.

Now, if your boss told you that you had to make a staffing change, you really wouldn’t have a choice.  This is the NFL, though.  Can’t Tomlin make his own decisions about who he has as a coach?  A similar situation occurred this year with Dwyer.  No one wants to admit who wanted him cut or why exactly he was let go.  We have rumor and innuendo, but no one is taking the responsibility.

Tomlin’s lack of control over the staff goes even deeper.  They have an elite quarterback, and yet the team seems obsessed with the running game.  Does this sound like a man who is making logical choices to get his team in the win column?  Everyone knows that putting the ball in Roethlisberger’s hands equals points, and yet we don’t see that nearly often enough.

Again, ownership has said they wanted to emphasize the run game . . . and what happens?  They emphasize it to the point that they are now the worst team in the league.  It doesn’t make good coaching sense and just proves that Tomlin has no say over how his team is run, though he talks a good game.

Sloppy, Sloppy Play

Fundamentals are what Steeler football is all about.  Open field tackling, good blocking up front and physical defensive plays are what made the team in the Cowher area.  Well, Cowher’s team is gone, and we are left with Tomlin’s choices – ones that he may or may not have made.

What does sloppy on the field play have to do with Tomlin?  The head coach is the one who focuses the practices.  False starts, arm tackles, and fumbles should be swiftly punished.  Instead of working on one of Haley’s crazy run plays or Lebeau’s specialized blitzes, perhaps the boys should put on the pads and remember what it is like to play real football with blocking drills, strip exercises and holding onto the football.

He doesn’t do that, though.  We don’t hear Tomlin calling for a return to fundamentals.  He’s always talking about paying attention to detail, but in the first quarter of this season, none of his team has shown that philosophy on the field.  There is a disconnect between his words and what he allows to go out on that field every Sunday under his supposed supervision.

Maybe Tomlin thinks he has control.  Maybe with the way the CBA shook out, he can’t drill them like Cowher used to.  Maybe his hands are tied by circumstance, but from the outside, it doesn’t seem like he can make an impact on his team.  He’s always ready with a snappy quote, but how about working on fumble drills, paying closer attention to that atrocious offensive line, and letting your best player do what he does best?

Instead of talking the talk, coach, it would be really nice if you took back control of this team from the players and owners and actually walked the walk.  Like a champion.

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Lynda Lampert

Lynda is a freelance writer for Pittsburgh Sporting News. Visit her portfolio at: LyndaLampert.com

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