Pittsburgh Steelers: Blame the Players, Not Mike Tomlin

Mike Tomlin

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers gave up 55 points in their loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday evening. That’s more points than any Steelers defense has ever allowed in their 80-year history.

The dramatic loss drops Pittsburgh’s record to 2-6 and puts them last in the AFC North, and has fans wanting to play the blame game. Twitter was set ablaze with fans wanting Mike Tomlin, Todd Haley, Dick Lebeau and even GM Kevin Colbert dismissed of their duties. However, when all was said and done, was this loss really on the coaching staff?

There are certain situations where coaches should be held accountable for an outcome of a game: poor clock management late in a game, a bad challenge in a crucial situation, a game plan that simply never seemed to have the legs to succeed — even personnel selection for a game that ended up biting a team in the rear end.

Giving up 55 points and committing three turnovers? That is not a situation where the coaches are to blame in my opinion.

Think back to the game. Was it Tomlin’s fault that All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu was repeatedly abused by Tom Brady? Was it Dick Lebeau’s fault when the defense repeatedly missed tackles that led to third-down conversions? Was it Todd Haley’s fault that when Ben Roethlisberger had plenty of time to make a play, he held onto the ball and was stripped while being sacked?

I could go on, but I think you all see what I am saying. These plays are not the coaches’ fault, and especially not the leader of the coaching staff.

Tomlin has his critics and rightfully so, but Sunday’s loss should have fans pointing the finger at the players. This loss wasn’t because there were no games in the Steelers’ locker room. This loss wasn’t because the players were no longer allowed to do somersaults into the end zone. This loss was because the Steelers’ players were simply outplayed in every facet of the game. The offensive line was abused repeatedly by the Patriots’ pass rush and the defense looked like a High School junior varsity defense going against, well, Tom Brady.

Fans will read this and disagree, and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but Dick Lebeau can’t step onto the field and make tackles anymore. Todd Haley can’t strap on a helmet and play wide receiver. Coaches sometimes have to put the game plan into the players’ hands and hope for the best.

I can guarantee that is the most difficult part of the job — taking the blame for something you can only prepare for and not directly impact when the game is on the line. It’s simple: when a defense gives up 55 points, how can anyone but the defenders be blamed? The greatest defensive coordinator in the history of the NFL couldn’t have made in-game adjustments to stop that barrage.

The Steelers’ season continues whether fans like it or not, and how the players play out the remainder of the season will tell us a lot about the coaching staff as well as the moral character of the players. There will be plenty of time to criticize coaches between now and then, but after the poor performance the Steelers displayed on Sunday evening, the blame goes on the players, not Mike Tomlin.


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