No one ever said being a head coach in the National Football League is an easy occupation. In fact, the complete opposite is true. Coaches are highly scrutinized for their scouting, coaches hired, game management and a myriad of other categories which naturally come with the job. You are constantly under the magnifying glass of the fan base, and front office, but this high-stress job has some decisions which are more difficult than others.
Throughout the 2015 season, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been forced to make some tough decisions, and many of them require him to swallow his pride and admit mistake - though he would never publicly admit it - but as fans lament their head coach's clear stubbornness in certain situations, a late change is better than no change.
The 2015 season got off to a rocky start with Shaun Suisham and Garrett Hartley both injured requiring the Steelers to look elsewhere for a new placekicker. Rather than look for a free agent, the Steelers made a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars for veteran kicker Josh Scobee. The Jaguars got a late-round draft pick and the Steelers received an experienced veteran to give them stability at the placekicker position.
Mike Tomlin was a main part of this deal, likely signing off on the deal to bring Scobee into the fold. After Scobee's misfortunes against the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens early in the season, Tomlin had no choice but to make a move. The team released Scobee and signed Chris Boswell, the team's current placekicker. Don't think Tomlin had to swallow some pride as he watched a hefty salary and a late-round draft pick walk out of the facility for the last time.
He had reached his tipping point with Scobee.
Then came the most discussed and debated facet of the team's defense, the secondary. Despite being torched through the air, the team wasn't giving up a great deal of points. Tomlin could lean on this fact and continue to keep the players he wants, and likes, on the field. Antwon Blake and Ross Cockrell have their shortcomings, but Tomlin was able to stick by his guns as long as the defense continued their "bend-don't-break" ways.
Despite ongoing speculation as to why Brandon Boykin, who the team traded a 5th round draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in training camp, wasn't seeing the field, Tomlin had a viable reason as the team was ranked in the Top 10 of points allowed. Then the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks lit up the defense like a Christmas tree. Coming off a 39-point gashing in Seattle, Tomlin had to entertain the idea of a change, and he did so in a defensive back rotation.
The decision paid dividends as Boykin recorded an interception and was a factor in the pass defense, but Tomlin certainly had to hate the narrative of "What took so long?" which he knew was coming after the Steelers dismantled the Indianapolis Colts in Week 13.
Tomlin had reached his tipping point with Blake and the porous secondary.
When Tomlin and Kevin Colbert decided to pick up Jacoby Jones off waivers after being released by the San Diego Chargers they thought they were making an upgrade to recently released Dri Archer. Jones did little to help the team in the kickoff and punt return game, but he wasn't hurting the team either - until Sunday Night Football.
Jones fumbled the opening kickoff, made a horrible decision to return a kick out of the end zone and fumbled a punt which caused Tomlin to bench the veteran return man mid-game against the Colts. The following week, Antonio Brown is now returning punts and Markus Wheaton kickoffs for the Steelers.
You got it, Tomlin had reached his tipping point with Jacoby Jones.
Every coach reaches their tipping point when it comes to personnel. Some decisions, like Scobee and Jones, are easier than others, but ultimately a coach has to do what is best for the team. Tomlin's decisions might have been later than most would have liked, but at least the changes were made.
It has been turbulent 2015 season in the Steel City, and as Mike Tomlin looks to win his 90th regular season game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14, he is leading a team which hardly resembles the team he coached in training camp at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. Change is inevitable, and for Tomlin, change has been the only constant throughout this 2015 regular season.