We could go back to the beginning of the Mike Tomlin era and point out loss after loss that shouldn’t have happened but let’s stick to this year’s team. A 13-3 regular season record that really should have been a 15-1 record. The first Jacksonville loss can be blamed on 5 interceptions by Ben Roethlisberger (but a case could be made to blame the coaching staff as the game plan was suspect). All too often during Mike Tomlin’s time as coach the phrase “The Steelers lose a game to a team they shouldn’t” is said. Heck, it’s become a source of betting between my friends and I. Which team will the Steelers lose to that they shouldn’t. I had the Colts this year by the way, a bet I almost won if not for the last second FG to win it. They almost always lose a home game they shouldn’t. This year it looked that game was in week 5 vs. the Jags, but after yesterday we see that wasn’t the case. They just always lose a game they shouldn’t and it ends up costing them more than just a regular season loss.
Lets look at week 2 in Chicago, the team was distracted I don’t care who you talk to, if they say otherwise they’re wrong. The National Anthem stunt as I’ll be calling it in this case was a distraction and the team wasn’t ready, some members of the team were upset about the plan to stay in the locker room, some were upset that they couldn’t “protest” by kneeling on the sideline, hell you even had Coach Tomlin giving pre-game interviews with CBS about it. Here’s a thought fellas if you want to make change and a difference do something… like getting out in the community and making a difference instead of not focusing on your job. 5 days a week during the season you have media members around at work and yet you don’t say anything instead you come up with a “Stunt” and it backfires on you. Wow, who didn’t see that coming? With the loss to the Bears in OT, and game which the defense gave up 222 yards rushing and were beaten by a QB that was benched 2 weeks later for a rookie, you lost a chance to have home field though out the playoffs in week 2 of the season. Yes, that early. The Bears were not a team this Steeler team should have lost to, even on the road but it happened.
Week 5 vs the Jags at home looked like it should be a win for the Steelers, but as it turns out the Jags were better than most gave credit for early in the season. The game was close at the half but 5 interceptions by Ben in the second half lead to the 30-9 loss. Again not the coaches fault with the 5 INT’s … BUT why on earth with a one point game at the half did they only run the ball 20 times the whole game? Even Bell after the game said he was puzzled as to why he only carried it 15 times… it’s not like he only got 10 yards on those 15 carries he had 48 (3.8 a carry). Oh by the way the Steelers D gave up 232 yards rushing to the Jags in the game, 181 to rookie Leonard Fournette. This game is almost excusable so this one gets a pass.
Now the New England game at home under the late afternoon lights… In come the Patriots (Public Enemy #1) … This is it the year the Steelers get over the NE hump and for 55 of the 60 minutes they were doing just that, then the ugly Monster rose from the grave… Gronk … Gronk, began to take over the game, on what turned out to be the Patriots winning drive Gronk had 3 catches for 69 yards and was targeted a 4th time. He had all but the last 8 yards as Dion Lewis scored the GW TD, and Gronk caught the 2pt conversion. With all that the Steelers still had plenty of time to drive down and at least tie it. A great catch and run by JuJu Smith-Schuster set the Steelers up at the NE 10 with 34 seconds to play (can you say atleast OT) but we all know what happen next. The Jesse James TD that was overturned but replay. As bad as that was that’s not the worst part. The coaching in the last 28 seconds is what killed the Steelers. Without a timeout the Steelers instead of huddling together on the sideline and laying out scenarios incase it was overturned were chit chatting. Then to make it worse with the clock stopped they only call one play in the huddle, and add to it Ben made a rookie mistake by throwing a pass he shouldn’t have to Heyward-Bey short of the goal-line with the clock running that lead to the scramble on 3rd and goal and we all knew what was going to happen. Again instead of throwing the ball out of bounds to stop the clock and kick the FG to tie Ben forces a pass that’s intercepted, Game Over. Ben after the game said he wanted to clock the ball even making the motion to his teammates, but Coach Haley was telling Ben to run a play, a play that they didn’t have called.
And now yesterday … From the start you could see the Steelers game-plan was not what it needed to be to beat the Jags, with all that they again had a chance to win. Which came down to bad coaching decisions. There were two 4th and less than 1’s … The first was a pitch to Bell that lost 4 yards, and the second was a pass attempt that fell incomplete (no receiver was even with in 10 yards of the line of scrimmage … Why such deep routes?) By the way you have a 6 foot 5 250 pound QB, if Tom Brady can QB sneak then BIG Ben can too (he’s 18-19 in such chances). The worst coaching decision however, was the onside kick with 2:18 left in the game down 7 with 2 timeouts and the 2 minute warning. You gave Jacksonville 3 free points which ended up being the final margin of victory. Yet another disappointing end to what should have been a dream season.
I tweeted on my way to the locker room asking “Does Mike Tomlin’s job security lead to losses like this” I think it does, I think it leads to a lot of the questionable losses. When it comes to coaching the fear of losing your job is a great motivator. One things for sure Tomlin’s not going anywhere (some of his coaches might ie. Haley and/or Butler) but he does need to start feeling the heat and the possibility of the unemployment line.