The Pittsburgh Steelers are an interesting team to figure out halfway through the 2021 regular season. Sitting with a 5-3-1 record, amidst the other middle-of-the-road NFL teams, most would assume the Steelers are where they want to be: right in the thick of things heading into the second half.
To an extent, this is true. The Steelers are in the thick of things both in the AFC North division, and the AFC. But something is amiss. Something needs to change to get this team where they want. No, not just a playoff berth, but the ability to make a run to the Super Bowl. After all, in Pittsburgh success isn’t gauged by playoff appearances, but by Lombardi trophies.
There are a myriad of ways the Steelers could see change in their team throughout the rest of the regular season. Getting injured players back, having new/young players stepping into new roles, but also the coaching staff should be put on blast as a way for the team to see change.
One coach in particular. Head coach Mike Tomlin.
Being the head coach of the Steelers brings with it certain expectations. Super Bowl wins are paramount, organizational stability is high on the list, but handling the criticism which comes with the territory is another. Mike Tomlin famously said, “We don’t live in our fears.” and this slogan has become synonymous for the coach who recently passed Bill Cowher on the Steelers’ all-time win list. Talk to Steelers fans who never miss a game, and they will tell you it seems Tomlin lives in his fears more than he doesn’t.
A prime example of this was in Week 10 when the Detroit Lions visited Heinz Field. The winless Lions were coming off a bye week, and had nothing to lose. Many considered this to be their proverbial Super Bowl. In the waning moments of the fourth quarter, Tomlin was faced with a decision on a fourth and three at the 48-yard line.
Let’s take a look at the situation:
Week 10 vs. Detroit
4:34 in the 4th Quarter
4th and 3 from the 48-yard line
3 timeouts remaining
Result: Pressley Harvin III punt
Chance of Winning Change: -4.7%
While this wasn’t the only decision which resulted in the ugly tie vs. Detroit, it was one of many where it seemed as if Tomlin could make a statement. To be bold. In fact, in hindsight this was the fifth-worst coaching call of the week, per EDJSports.com.
When it comes to being bold, many confuse the term with careless. There is a clear distinction between the two. Being bold is when you are faced with a borderline decision, like the one listed above during the game vs. the Lions. This move puts your faith in your offense to get the job done, and if not, the defense to have their backs. On the flip side, being careless is what we see often around the NFL when teams decide to go for it inside their own 35-yard line. Fail in that scenario and the only way the defense has a shot to keep the other team off the board is with a turnover. Instead, you are just hoping to hold them to a field goal rather than surrendering a touchdown.
No one who has watched the Steelers would ever suggest this team is good enough to constantly go for it on fourth down, but being bold and having faith in your team can have a ripple effect. It tells the players the coach doesn’t just have your back, but believes you can get the job done when it matters the most.
Don’t let the aforementioned scenario make you lose recollection of times when Tomlin was on the other side of the docket. Who can forget the fake field goal call against the Cleveland Browns in Week 9 which saw Chris Boswell not just throw an incomplete pass, but get hit high and force him out of the game with a concussion? Yeah, I won’t forget that play either, and some would say the decision to pass up points in that situation, especially when the Steelers were due to get the ball to start the third quarter, was not bold, but careless.
Either way, this 2021 Steelers team is a team who can use a definitive trait or feature. Some type of calling card. It is here where Tomlin could lead by example as a team who is aggressive, willing to take risks and is bold when it comes to their decision making. Have a shot to go for the win? Take it. Facing an opportunity to keep a drive going and control the clock/game? Do it.
Maybe this is what the Steelers need to break out of the pack of mediocrity which is now called the National Football League. A calling card. Being bold. It can all start with their head coach pulling the proverbial trigger in some of these situations.