The Pittsburgh Steelers’ season is over, but if you think the news surrounding the black-and-gold is over — think again. For the drama-filled Steelers, things are just heating up, and this is where the daily links article comes in. You might have missed some key news, and we fill you in and give you the latest, and sometimes greatest, news surrounding the Steelers.
Today in the Black-and-gold links article we take a look at how the Steelers players immediately came to Mike Tomlin’s defense after the game. Not that you could have expected anything else, but if you are expecting a mutiny — don’t hold your breath.
Let’s get to the news:
Steelers players throw support behind Tomlin as early offseason begins
By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Black Monday hit the NFL coaching ranks hard as six head coaches were fired within 24 hours after the regular season ended Sunday night. With openings already existing in Cleveland and Green Bay, one-quarter of the league’s 32 teams have vacancies.
The Pittsburgh Steelers haven’t fired a coach in 50 years and despite the team missing the playoffs for the first time in five years, Mike Tomlin’s tenure is expected to extend to a 13th s eason.
That might not satisfy an angry fan base that watched the Steelers win two of their final six games to finish 9-6-1 and miss the playoffs by one-half game. But Tomlin continues to have support of the members of the Steelers locker room, and that was evident by their words Monday morning when players began cleaning out their lockers in preparation for a sooner-than-expected offseason.
“He’s the same man every single day that he walks into this building,” tight end Vance McDonald said. “To have that type of consistency, there’s no guessing and no what-ifs of who you are going to get. You are going to get Coach Tomlin for sure and throughout and true.
“It’s a big catalyst for how we handle a lot of things.”
Tomlin has compiled a 125-66-1 record in 12 seasons, plus one Super Bowl championship and another appearance. Under his watch, the Steelers’ worst finish was back-to-back 8-8 seasons in 2012-13. What followed was a run of four consecutive playoff appearances that included three division titles.
Critics, however, will point to Tomlin winning three postseason games since the Steelers’ trip to the Super Bowl after the 2010 season.
“Name me a coach that’s going to come in here and do better than he’s done in how many years he’s been here,” said cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, who has played for three other organizations. “How many coaches have gotten fired so far? … Good coaches aren’t just lying around out there. It’s like quarterbacks. They aren’t just walking up and down the street.”
Tomlin has two more years remaining on his contract. He signed a two-year extension in the 2017 training camp, and if the Steelers follow protocol, Tomlin will be in line for another extension in 2019.
“I don’t even want to try to imagine what it’s like to coach an NFL team for a second,” McDonald said. “I tip my hat off to him. It’s such a big job.”
Mark Madden: Blame Steelers collapse on discipline, humility
By: Mark Madden, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2018 season was utterly unacceptable at too many levels, not least in the standings.
The Steelers plummeted from 7-2-1 to 9-6-1 and out of the playoffs. Only one word describes that: “collapse.” We had been talking about home field and a bye. Now we’re discussing what should have been and the NFL Draft.
Three of the Steelers’ defeats and their tie were intolerable: the losses at Denver and Oakland because those teams stink, losing at home vs. the Los Angeles Chargers because the Steelers blew a 16-point halftime lead, the tie at Cleveland because the Steelers blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead.
The coaching was rotten. Replay challenges were stupid, made based on what Mike Tomlin saw on the scoreboard. Tomlin routinely mangled clock management. Tomlin opted to not use Ben Roethlisberger for four series in the Oakland loss despite the injured quarterback being cleared to play. The Steelers’ special teams led the NFL in penalties. The Steelers were the league’s most-penalized team in the season’s first half. As is tradition, Tomlin didn’t have his team properly prepared for inferior foes. Witness Sunday’s lackluster effort against injury-riddled Cincinnati.
It took the Steelers 16 weeks and 12 missed kicks to replace the NFL’s worst kicker. Then Matt McCrane came in and went three-for-three on field goals. That kind of accuracy would have come in handy during a few of the Steelers’ losses.
Ben Roethlisberger threw a league-high 16 interceptions. He was otherwise brilliant, but that’s inexcusable.
The Steelers had zero playmakers on defense, getting just 15 takeaways (third-worst in the NFL) and finishing minus-10 on turnovers (fifth-worst).
The Steelers made mistake after costly mistake. Their latest loss, a week ago at New Orleans, was a microcosm: critical fumbles by JuJu Smith-Schuster and Steven Ridley and a head-scratching fake punt decision by Tomlin on fourth-and-5.
The season is a blurry nightmare of forced throws, missed kicks, dropped interceptions and linebackers covering wide receivers. It’s punctuated by moments of insanity, like tight end Xavier Grimble being too dumb to settle for scoring a touchdown at Denver, instead forcing his own fumble by running over a defender at the goal line. Don’t forget Roethlisberger’s five turnovers at Cleveland.
The problems started in the offseason: After Ryan Shazier’s career tragically was cut short, the Steelers didn’t do enough to properly replace the man who was the key component in their defense. Shazier couldn’t be duplicated, but Jon Bostic clearly didn’t come remotely close.
The Steelers can’t be blamed for not agreeing to Le’Veon Bell’s unreasonable terms, but they didn’t have a proper handle on where the situation was going, and the trickledown rattled the locker room in the season’s early going. Inaccurately assessing the Bell situation also left lots of cap space on the table, money that might have been used to better remedy Shazier’s absence.
The season was a disaster given its potential. The instances of stupidity, sloppiness and selfishness are far too numerous to mention in one column.
It was a stink sandwich, and everybody should take a bite: owner Art Rooney II, Tomlin, GM Kevin Colbert, Roethlisberger, all the coaches, all the players, the equipment managers and the ball boys.
But if you’re expecting significant changes, they won’t be forthcoming. A sacrificial lamb or two might be offered, like defensive coordinator Keith Butler (at least his platoon contained Tyler Eifert on Sunday) and special teams coach Danny Smith, who can’t possibly be fired enough. Smith should be fired, rehired, then fired again. The Steelers’ special teams were slapstick.
That’s where all that stupidity, sloppiness and selfishness comes from: stubbornness and arrogance. Every decision the Steelers make is correct. Just ask them.
The Steelers would rather be right than do better.
There’s no point discussing Tomlin’s future. He stays, for sure. He had another winning season, after all. He never has had a losing year. Did you know that?
Sarcasm aside, replacing Tomlin wouldn’t guarantee better results. At any rate, Tomlin is in no danger of being fired, ever.
Job security in perpetuity does not make Tomlin a better coach. It further convinces him he’s always right. At Baltimore, John Harbaugh’s seat was extremely hot. So he benched quarterback Joe Flacco in favor of Lamar Jackson, made his defense hyper-aggressive and the Ravens won six of their last seven. But even when the Steelers floundered, they kept doing the same things.
So Tomlin will return. But he should be forced to make changes in his staff, made to cede authority in replay challenges and clock-management situations to a hired expert in those fields and surrender final say in personnel/draft decisions to Colbert. (Similar has occurred in the past, like when Tomlin was required to “retire” offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. But, despite worse results since, Tomlin’s power seems to have grown.)
But little or none of that will happen.
Get ready for more of the same next year. Roethlisberger said he wants as much continuity as possible, and his reasoning is obvious: He’s only going to play maybe two more years, so why start over, especially with a new coach?
But Tomlin just doesn’t demand enough of his players when it comes to professionalism and focus. He never has.
Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown are more concerned with their brands than they are about the Steelers and winning.
Does that negatively affect the Steelers’ results? Who knows?
Steelers face questions on Roethlisberger and Le’Veon (again)
By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN
The Pittsburgh Steelers ended the season with a 16-13 win over the Cincinnati Bengals to finish 9-6-1. Here’s a recap of the season and what’s next:
Season grade: Below-average. This season was well below the Steelers’ standards. They averaged more than 11 wins per game from 2014-17 but made 2018 more difficult with a three-game losing streak over a stretch of AFC West matchups in November and December. Defeating New England for the first time since 2011 was a breakthrough, but in a year when a playoff bye was attainable with more consistent play, the Steelers’ many lapses let the Baltimore Ravens keep pace in the AFC North. Considering the talent across the roster, it’s hard to escape the belief the Steelers could have done more with what they had. The largely lethargic Week 17 performance against Cincinnati highlights that belief.
Season in review: The Steelers faced tumult to start the season as Le’Veon Bell skipped Week 1, a decision that turned into a season-long holdout. Behind a stout offensive line and a proven passing game, tailback James Conner emerged as a legitimate threat. Despite a relatively healthy roster, the Steelers’ 1-2-1 start set the wrong tone for a contender. The Steelers recovered, like they usually do, and the rest of the season featured an amalgam of explosive performances and uneven play. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger earned career highs in touchdowns and passing yards. Young stars such as T.J. Watt and JuJu Smith-Schuster strengthened their breakout campaigns in year two. But the Steelers consistently ranked near the bottom of the NFL in turnover margin, which sort of defined their season. Going four games without an interception in the second half of the year resulted in three losses during that stretch. They couldn’t dictate the tempo consistently enough, and closing out games was often a struggle.