The Pittsburgh Steelers went into Baltimore Sunday and were defeated while displaying loads of ineptitude and apathy as the Baltimore Ravens continued their dominance over the black and gold 21-14. The game was nowhere near as close as the score would indicate. The fact the game ended on a hilariously bad on-side kick attempt by Chris Boswell reflects more on the lack of talent on the Ravens’ side rather than the Steelers showing heart in mounting the comeback. The Steelers now stand at 4-4, quite disappointing given the amount of expectations the team held coming into the season. However, should we really be surprised by where the Steelers are right now?
Let’s face it: the 2016 Steelers are nowhere near as good as they, or anyone else (including Steeler Nation), thought they were. This team is overrated and arrogant on offense, lacks playmakers and consistent stoppers on defense, and the special teams might be coached by the most inept man ever to coach special teams in professional football today, Danny "Swinging Gate Two Times" Smith. The fact that the Steelers failed in all three aspects of the game yesterday at crucial moments is an indictment on the coaching staff and the front office. The team has numerous players who lack football intelligence and cannot execute even the simplest of plays.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, three weeks removed from knee surgery but who now has a 2-6 record when coming back from injury, played like a guy who just met his teammates in the parking lot for the first time. Roethlisberger looked flustered and out of sync for more than three quarters yesterday. There were moments in the game that had to make one think, "why is Big Ben out there?" Roethlisberger, who has not won in Baltimore since the 2010 season, continues a skid of ineptitude in Charm City that sees no end for the foreseeable future.
However, the biggest problem with the Steelers this season is the coaching staff. This current staff now has terrible losses in Philadelphia, Miami, and Baltimore to add to their collective resume that shamefully displays unpreparedness, lack of discipline, and softness as a team. What is even more frustrating is head coach Mike Tomlin’s explanations after the game for the reasons why the offense was so anemic for the first 52 minutes of the game, saying he "didn’t want to be one dimensional" when the team clearly had no traction in the running game as David DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, B.J. Finney, and the remaining linemen struggled to block Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, and the rest of the Ravens’ defenders. Tomlin’s answer regarding the blocked field goal returned for a touchdown as the moment when the game turned was not true. No, coach Tomlin. The Steelers were never in this game. They lost this game when they showed up because the team was not prepared to play professional football after the bye week.
The Steelers being called for over a dozen penalties after a bye week is unacceptable and this must fall on the laps of the coaching staff. Rookie Sean Davis missing his assignment is one thing, but Danny Smith putting Davis in a situation where the rookie had no idea what to do is the fault of the coaching staff. The fact that the offensive players failed to line up properly on several occasions yesterday must fall on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Even more embarrassing is that Sammie Coates, who serves as the epitome of the 2016 Steelers with his maddening inconsistency, was offside on the KICKOFF STARTING THE SECOND HALF! How does this happen? The fact that the Steelers consistently get beat in Baltimore and lose to teams with losing records must be addressed as well, and that falls on the doorstep of Mike Tomlin.
What the Steelers in 2016 proved is that there is a clear distinction between individual talent and team talent. The Steelers have an abundance of individual talent, especially on offense with perhaps the best running back in the league, the one of the best wide receivers in the league, a future Hall of Famer at quarterback, and a promising offensive line that has only one guy over the age of 30 playing on it. However, the team lacks the cohesion and chemistry to be consistent. While at times this season the Steelers have looked magnificent, they also look completely inept. What is even more frustrating is not the lack of execution. Rather the most frustrating thing is the clear mission by the coaching staff to prepare the team and put them in situations where they can best succeed.
Several weeks ago, an article regarding head coach Mike Tomlin being part of the problem instead of the solution garnered copious amounts of criticism on all sides. Tomlin’s men did not show up to Baltimore at all, and this pattern of losing to inferior teams is at a point where it is no longer novel and amusing. It should be considered grounds for termination.
Look, Tomlin is a good coach. He deserves full credit for everything he has done: he did lead the Steelers to one Super Bowl victory and held the team together when Ben Roethlisberger was suspended in 2010, leading that team to the Super Bowl that year as well. Tomlin also has never had a losing season, 8-8 being the worst record under his watch. However, this team will not go further with Tomlin at the helm. Baltimore will consistently dominate Pittsburgh and there are no signs of this changing anytime soon. Let’s also not forget that the Steelers have had only one playoff win since the 2010 season, and that was because the Cincinnati Bengals had more undisciplined knuckleheads than the Steelers did.
Tomlin’s journey with the Steelers has run its course and he is who he is, a wonderfully articulate man whose teams lack discipline and consistency. The Denver Broncos fired John Fox a year after making it to the Super Bowl and won the Super Bowl the very next season because John Elway realized that Fox was not the man who could lead the Broncos to the promised land. The Steelers should, at the very least, consider removing Tomlin because he is not the man who can lead the Steelers to the Super Bowl anytime soon.
Until there are some major changes made, the Steelers will remain in football purgatory: just good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to contend against the New England Patriots…but also not bad enough to where the Rooney family will fire the coaching staff and make wholesale changes to the roster. Purgatory is the worst state because unlike contenders who have hope in the present and the bottom feeders who can take solace in a can’t miss top 5 draft pick, the ones in purgatory have no real hope. The Steelers, as an organization, take pride in consistency but the only consistency the 2016 Steelers have shown is inconsistency and ineptitude. Things need to change if the Rooneys want to bring a seventh Super Bowl to Steeler Nation, and Mike Tomlin’s status needs to be on the table as one of those changes.