Not every problem has a solution. Sometimes things just aren’t possible.
When it comes to football, sometimes players just aren’t good enough or don’t have the skill set in order to overcome certain obstacles. But when a team rolls off 11 straight victories and averages nearly 30 points a game, saying the issue is they just aren’t good enough to score is a difficult argument.
Notice I said difficult, not impossible.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off two straight losses and three games in which the team failed to reach the 20 point threshold. While the Steelers managed to win the first game, a lot in part due to a touchdown scored by the defense, they have not been able to produce the points necessary to exit the field victorious.
While the Steelers did secure a playoff berth on Sunday, their performance over the last several weeks is not indicative of a team which is going to make any kind of noise in the NFL postseason. While the defense is playing strong most of the time, being stuck on the field for far longer than they should in the second half of games is wearing them down. Add on the piling up of injuries and the defense is doing all they can to hold things together for the Steelers.
But what happened to the offense?
This is an extremely difficult question, so much so I’m not going to directly answer it. The only thing helpful in figuring out what is wrong with the Steelers offense comes in figuring out how to fix the Steelers offense. It’s not about pointing fingers. It’s not about who is or isn’t doing what. It’s about fixing the problems regardless of why they have occurred.
So whose job is it to make these fixes?
Of course everything starts and ends with the head coach. Yes, there is an entire staff along with the players who ultimately work together as a team to get the job done. But for three games, the Steelers offense has fallen short. The curtain has been pulled back. It’s now time to figure out something else.
Following Sunday night’s loss to the Buffalo Bills, Coach Tomlin was asked if there was enough time to fix the Steelers offense before they played next Monday in Cincinnati. His precise answer says it all.
Alright. He said it. Now we should expect it.
I don’t know how easy of a fix it is for the Steelers offense. Is it execution? Partially. Is it scheme? Of course that plays a part. Is it being one dimensional? It’s looking more like that with every game. What is the answer to fix everything? That is for Coach Tomlin to ultimately decide.
My question for Coach Tomlin is this: To what extent are you willing to make sure this offense gets back on track?
I’m not asking for people to be fired the day after the game in order to make changes for the Steelers moving forward when they are 11-2. While we, as fans, believe we know what some of the problems are or where the responsibility lies, there is so much more going on with this team than we would need to know to possibly be able to draw a precise conclusion. But this is Coach Tomlin’s team. He has to identify the problem and take the steps to fix it.
If the problem is the offensive coordinator, Tomlin needs to fix it. If it’s the offensive line, it’s still on Tomlin. Yes, these coaches need to be held accountable...to Tomlin. It starts and ends with him. If his coaches aren’t getting the job done, it’s time to step in. The time has come for the ultimate authority to take over whenever and wherever it’s needed.
While we, as fans, believe we know what some of the problems are or where the responsibility lies, as I’ve stated before we don’t have the inside information needed. Could it be a change in personnel? Offensive philosophy? Formations? Specific play calls? All of the above? Regardless of the cause, it is Coach Tomlin who has all the information to draw the conclusion and ultimately make it happen.
We could sit here all week in the comments section and critique and break down everything we believe is wrong with the Steelers offense. Chances are, we would probably have several things right. Who knows, we might have all of it right if K.T. Smith joins the conversation. But do we know the exact causes and the intricacies involved? No we do not. As I’ve said, Coach Tomlin does and therefore he must be the one to implement whatever necessary to get this offense back on track before the playoffs. I think you see the theme here.
After Week 12 against the Ravens, I expected the offense to respond against Washington. It didn’t. I then chalked it up to a short week and looked for the offense to respond against Buffalo. It’s still didn’t. The Steelers can’t afford the same answer next Monday night in Cincinnati. Now is the time.
Now it’s time to address the real questions: Do the Steelers have the right pieces to fix their problems? Was the Steelers offense really clicking on all cylinders early in the season, or were they simply masking insufficiencies over the first 10 games? Was the offense merely doing what they were because it was working the best, or was it the only thing working at all? Do the Steelers actually have the pieces to perform some of the proposed solutions?
Coach Tomlin admitted before the Steelers played the Buffalo Bills how important it was to get the running game going. Do the Steelers have the pieces to do it? Is it execution, scheme, or ability? If it’s the third option, there’s not going to be much they can do to fix it, so they might just have to find something different.
It could just be the Steelers are out of options. They have done various things throughout the season to be successful until the defense figured out how to stop it. Maybe there is nothing else they can do differently. But based on Tomlin’s answer to fixing the offense, it doesn’t seem he believes this to be the case.
Ultimately, Coach Tomlin is beyond delegating this problem to those below him. It can’t be on the coordinator. It can’t be on the other assistant coaches. It can’t be just on the players. He has to make the necessary changes, difficult as they could be, to right this ship. And if the Steelers don’t have the coaching staff to get creative enough to do other things for this offense, then that is on Mike Tomlin as well.
The season is not over. The sky is not falling. The Steelers are in the postseason and in control their own destiny within the AFC North. Their recent shortcomings have taken control of the number one seed out of their hands, so now all they can do is focus on what they can control. Most importantly, none of this will matter if they simply don’t play better.