The Pittsburgh Steelers pay head coach Mike Tomlin $8 million per year to coach the team. He has had the position for 16 seasons and the Steelers have experienced every level of success and some bitter playoff failures under his leadership. The only thing that the organization and fans have been spared during his tenure, is a losing season and that is no small achievement.
Tomlin, with the exception of one injury-shortened season, has not had to worry about the quarterback position. He masterfully maneuvered a career backup Mason Rudolph and practice squad quarterback Devlin “Duck” Hodges in 2019, and the team narrowly missed the playoffs. That audition for life post-Ben Roethlisberger gave fans a lot of hope that Mitch Trubisky who has led two teams to the playoffs and a first-round draft pick Kenny Pickett would under his leadership find their way to a successful season.
The offense has struggled mightily in the first two weeks of the season. Fans and media observers are divided on the blame for the problems between Matt Canada and Trubisky. The man who is responsible for keeping the ship sailing in the right direction is Tomlin and he does not seem to be considering a course correction based on his weekly Mike Tomlin Show on the Pittsburgh Steelers YouTube channel.
“I’m not even in the neighborhood of having discussions like that man,” Tomlin told Bob Pompeani. “I’m more concerned about our collective growth and development and what we’re putting together in terms of what we desire to do to engineer victory. He’s (Trubisky) just a component of it.”
The quarterback in the modern NFL has to be viewed as more than just a component. Reports over the last two seasons have detailed that Tomlin and the coaching staff wanted a mobile quarterback. The idea of adding that wrinkle to the Steelers’ offense was supposed to be the piece of the puzzle they were lacking to compete. The stationary Hall of Fame target managed to win 21 regular season games in two seasons and produced a league-leading seven come-from-behind victories last season, but according to virtually every national voice, he was washed up.
Trubisky and Pickett were upgraded over the retired Roethlisberger, according to experts. However, Trubisky is running the same offense as the previous quarterback with fewer RPOs and very little movement. What was the point of having a mobile quarterback stand in the pocket? It is a question that is baffling the fan base and has to be a sore subject at this point during coaches’ meetings.
Merril Hoge who has been a respected film analyst for over two decades since he retired from the NFL, called the offense ‘hard to figure out’ and that ‘schemes don’t make sense when he joined Roethlisberger’s YouTube podcast earlier this week. The Steelers have to get on track against a Cleveland Browns defense that has seen the current offense repeatedly. Divisional games require creativity since opponents are prepared for what you do well.
Tomlin has never gotten involved deeply with the offense, confident in his playmakers to take charge and when necessary overcome coaching. The current quarterbacks are not equipped to do this. Trubisky is either afraid or not allowed to be audible depending on who you believe. Rookies who ignore the coordinator typically do not fare well or last long in the NFL. Only the head coach can correct this and frankly if that correction is to tell the current quarterback not to be afraid to improvise, then it is just a matter of time until he cedes the job to Pickett. It is not Trubisky’s strength.
The current head coach, like the previous two, is likely headed to the Hall of Fame. The handling of the heir apparent Pickett is going to determine whether Tomlin coaches in Pittsburgh for as long as he wants to do it. Chuck Noll got away with four miserable seasons after losing to Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins in the 1984 AFC Championship game. He was forced to fire his defensive coaching staff and the heir he was grooming Tony Dungy. Bill Cowher’s seat got extremely hot in the late ’90s when 6-10 suddenly became a norm, then he found lightning in a bottle by drafting a young quarterback from a small college that finally brought him a Super Bowl.
To be clear, this is not insinuating Tomlin should be on the hot seat. But if he mishandles the quarterback situation and in the eyes of the fan base ruins the chance for Pickett to be successful, that seat will get warm. Maybe he should take a drive through the neighborhood of possible offensive changes that could be made. He does not have to stop and get out, Tomlin could just check out the scenery while he is still responsible for driving the car.
What do you think Steeler Nation? Should Tomlin be at least considering options on offense? Comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.