I don't know what's worse these days: the end of the Steelers’ season, or the uptick in drama the moment it ends.
When the Steelers’ 2016-2017 campaign concluded, we had to wade through the drama of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger possibly retiring and other such unsavory reports that certainly aren't as fun as a trip to the Super Bowl.
And where to begin this year?
Not even a week into Pittsburgh's off-season, that began sooner than anyone wanted it to, after a 45-42 loss to the Jaguars in a divisional round playoff matchup at Heinz Field on January 14, the unfavorable reports are coming at you so fast, it's hard to keep up.
First, there was the report early last week that the Steelers limited partners (minority owners) were going to lobby President Art Rooney II to fire head coach Mike Tomlin.
Two days later, there was the ousting of controversial offensive coordinator Todd Haley in-favor of quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner.
While the first report seemed laughable (no way would the team fire a coach with Tomlin's resume), and the second report was predictable (the rift between Haley and Roethlisberger had become almost impossible to remedy), a third report, which surfaced on Friday about star running back Le'Veon Bell skipping most of the walk-through practice on Saturday, the day before the Jacksonville playoff game, and then showing up late on the day of the contest (something that, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette beat writer Ed Bouchette, who brought this all to light, was not uncommon for other players during the season), is quite alarming, alarming enough to make that first report seem not so laughable.
When you couple the practice/game day tardiness with some other nuggets that surfaced down the stretch, such as veteran linebacker James Harrison's insubordination that included sleeping in a recliner during team meetings, it makes you cringe.
There has never been a bigger Tomlin proponent than me, but this stuff just doesn't look good.
I mean, how do things get so bad between your quarterback and your offensive coordinator, that the two of them aren't even on speaking terms by season's end?
There's no escaping the chaos and confusion that took place on the Steelers’ sideline after the Jesse James touchdown was overturned in the waning seconds of the pivotal Week-15 matchup against the Patriots at Heinz Field—chaos and confusion that could have been avoided if the coordinator and his quarterback had been on the same page.
Yes, what happened to the Steelers with that overturned call was perhaps a miscarriage of justice, but for that game to not even go into overtime, that's on the head coach.
So apparently is the ineptitude of the defense, after Bouchette also reported that Tomlin had taken over many of coordinator Keith Butler's meetings during the regular season and was calling the plays from the sidelines during games.
Given all the other drama that took place over the course of the season, it's becoming more and more difficult to defend Tomlin.
Am I still in his camp?
You better believe I am.
Do I now think a lot of this stuff is unacceptable?
You better believe I do.
No, the Steelers shouldn't fire Tomlin—all one needs to do is look around the NFL to see that the lack of great head coaches is maybe even bigger than the lack of great quarterbacks—but, man, something has to change.
Whether that change is a stern message to Tomlin from his superiors, or an example-filled message from Tomlin to his players—perhaps in the form of releasing or parting with some disruptive personalities—the coach and his team need to understand that the status quo is unacceptable.
Perhaps weeding out those disruptive personalities started one or two drafts ago, when the team began selecting talented players with great character and avoiding the talented ones lacking it.
Unfortunately, even players with great character can be influenced by disruptive personalities.
I don't know what the solution is, but I do know Mike Tomlin has never looked as bad as he does at this very moment.