As poor as this current Pittsburgh Steelers team has been, it has been equally amazing. There has been improvement across the board, and players have stepped up to make contributions to help make this season relevant once again. Not many teams can state that fact after starting a season 0-4. A large amount of that blame of going 0-4 falls on head coach Mike Tomlin, but also the majority of the success in rallying this team to a 7-4 record since then goes to Tomlin as well.
Tomlin has showed that he has control of his locker room and that the players still respond to him as a coach, person and motivator. That doesn’t mean Tomlin doesn’t have something to learn from this season; after all, he did start 0-4. No, there is a great deal that Tomlin can learn from this season and this team, and righting the proverbial ship and making a team relevant again is just one of those things.
At the onset of training camp in Latrobe, PA, Tomlin carried himself with an heir of arrogance. I understand that you have to be confident, but being a realist is also a necessary trait for success in the coaching industry. The 0-4 start humbled the head coach, and since then his new approach and focus to detail has led the team back into the playoff hunt. Even if the team doesn’t get into the postseason, keeping that same attention to detail going into next season will only increase the Steelers’ chances of success in years to come.
It seems that slowly but surely Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert are learning that it is better to focus on young talent rather than the old. Only problem is that for them to realize such a thing the team has gotten behind the eight ball in terms of salary cap and financial constraints. The Steelers are staring at an aging defense that cannot be held together with duct tape any longer. Players like Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, Brett Keisel, LaMarr Woodley and Larry Foote all are players that are staring at an uncertain future after this season. Sometimes if you hold onto players too long they lose their shelf life and you are left with nothing. The Steelers’ drafting has been questionable in recent years but will have to be borderline magnificent if they expect to fill those gaping holes on the defensive side of the football. This is a lesson that has taken Tomlin and the Steelers organization years to realize, and the team might pay for it in the long run.
Most importantly, Mike Tomlin should learn that you are never too seasoned to learn, and it is okay to admit to a mistake. During the Steelers’ most recent victory against the Green Bay Packers, the Steelers had a chance to run out the clock and kick a last second, chip shot field goal to win the game. Instead, Tomlin elected to run the football with Le’Veon Bell. Bell scored a touchdown that some might argue the Packers let him score, but regardless, the football was headed back into the Packers’ hands with over a minute remaining. There is no way around it; that was a mistake. Tomlin’s time management has always been poor, but that is no excuse for it not improving over his time in Pittsburgh. What was even more frustrating was how Tomlin still defended his decision in his press conference this week. It takes a strong individual to admit when they were wrong, and that is something Tomlin needs to embrace in the future.
The journey that has been the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2013 season has been long and winding with several peaks and valleys. A journey with such wild characteristics can be a valuable learning tool, not just for the players, but for the head coach as well. Let’s just hope Mike Tomlin learns something.