5 Questions You Wish You Could Ask Pittsburgh Steelers HC Mike Tomlin
5 Questions Facing Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers
For many NFL teams, back-to-back 8-8 seasons wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Sure, it would hinder improvement a bit by not getting a very high draft pick, and in most seasons the record wouldn't be enough to make the playoffs. But there are many teams in the NFL that would call an 8-8 record a great season, and to have two of those seasons in a row would be a sign of brighter things to come.
Such an optimistic outlook on life doesn't apply to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2013, the Steelers went 8-8 for the second consecutive season, finishing second in the AFC North but missing the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. The .500 records in 2012 and 2013 marked the first time since 1998-99 that the Steelers failed to post a winning record in consecutive years. And while there isn't necessarily a ton of pressure on head coach Mike Tomlin given Pittsburgh's reputation for firing coaches more slowly than glaciers move, business is going to have to pick up soon for the Steelers or there are going to be questions.
This offseason is a critical one for Tomlin and the Steelers, who have decisions to make on a ton of their own free agents as well as looking around the league and in the NFL Draft for help at various positions. The Steelers also have to make sure they can get under the salary cap. It wouldn't be a surprise to see this offseason be one where some household names get kicked to the curb as the Steelers try to rebuild and reload.
With so many questions on the table for the Pittsburgh Steelers, here are five questions I would ask Mike Tomlin.
Ed Morgans is an ACC Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @writered21.
5. Is Le'Veon Bell the Every-Down Running Back?
When the Pittsburgh Steelers started the 2013 season at 0-4, one of the main reasons was an injury to rookie running back Le'Veon Bell. Once he returned, he showed immediately that he was going to pay dividends, rushing for 860 yards and eight touchdowns. Bell also caught 45 passes. He needs to be a running back the Steelers can use in all situations next season, and he must stay healthy for Pittsburgh to contend in the AFC.
4. Can the Steelers Find Any Healthy Offensive Linemen?
The Steelers had so many injuries along the offensive line last year that it almost became a running joke -- if any of the offensive linemen could actually run. In multiple games, the Steelers found themselves down to their last five linemen at some point, and not even all five were really healthy but they were the last bodies the Steelers had left. Pittsburgh not only has to keep everyone healthy, but four linemen are free agents. Pittsburgh must find a line combination that can play together and stay together.
3. Has Ryan Clark Talked His Way Out of Pittsburgh?
Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark never met an NFL issue he didn't have an opinion on, and when he was one of the best safeties in the league, hitting receivers over the middle and stuffing the run, that was okay. But now the veteran of ESPN First Take is sliding toward the end of his career, and the Steelers' defense was at times in 2013 as bad as it has ever been. Pittsburgh likely has to choose between Clark and Troy Polamalu for next season's roster, and you have to wonder if Clark's' time isn't up.
2. Is LaMarr Woodley Part of the Steelers' Future?
At his best, Pittsburgh outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley is the one of the league's most fearsome defenders. Able to get off the edge with a mixture of power and speed, Woodley has made many big plays down through the years for the Steelers. But the trick is, lately Woodley is almost never 100 percent healthy enough to make those kind of plays. He played just 11 games last season, getting five sacks. He hasn't played all 16 games since 2010 and turns 30 in November. If Pittsburgh were to try and get value for him, now would be the time. But with Jason Worilds a free agent, the Steelers also have to decide if it's worth it to pay Worilds and Woodley or if one has to go.
1. Can the Steelers Afford to Keep WR Emmanuel Sanders?
Pittsburgh wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders has been a picture of frustration during his time with the Steelers. A talented and speedy receiver, Sanders has made a number of big plays since arriving in Pittsburgh out of SMU in 2010. He caught 67 passes last season for 740 yards and six touchdowns, his most productive season to date. But in key situations, Sanders' propensity for drops has really hurt the Steelers. He is very clearly the No. 2 receiver behind Antonio Brown, and as a free agent, Pittsburgh has to decide if he's worth keeping around. Having already paid Brown, it would seem unlikely that they pony up for Sanders as well.