EDITORIAL: Mike Tomlin is a Quality Coach that Deserves Respect

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin during his weekly press conference. December 18, 2018 (Clyde Harris / Golden Sky Media)

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PITTSBURGH (GSM) — I’m sick of all of the “Tomlin didn’t maximize his talent” arguments in Pittsburgh.

Let’s look at the record:

2007: 1st year as head coach, he wins the AFC North but loses momentum and playoff game at home with last-second FG. This was AFTER the NFL’s leading rusher broke his leg in week 15 or 16 (i.e., “Fast” Willie Parker, he of the SB rushing record for longest TD run back in SB XL). Also- his franchise QB throws a pick-6 #ugh.

2008: Won SB as 2nd year coach.

2009: Team collapsed at the end of the year to miss the playoffs. SB hangover. I’ll concede that point. BAD loss to the Raiders at home.

2010: Made it to the SB. Lost to Aaron Rodgers after a(nother) Big Ben pick-6 (no one brings that up) and a bad fumble by Mendenhall (sp). Still lost by 6. Also got to the SB with a banged-up Troy Polamalu, who was the NFL Defensive MVP that was hurt late in the season versus the Bengals (apparently on a pick-6 return).

2011: Lost the Tebow game when his team was VERY banged up. Ryan Clark (starting safety) couldn’t play in Denver after almost dying the last time up there (sickle cell trait). Mendenhall tore his ACL in the past game of the regular season. Multiple injuries everywhere during that game. That was still a 12-4 team.

2012: Big Ben was injured for 3-4 games that year. Missed the playoffs.

2013: Started the season 0-4, including a bad loss in London to MIN. Went 8-4 (67%) the rest of the way, was one missed FG away from making the playoffs by the Chiefs in week 17.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (Brian Cook / Golden Sky Media)

2014: Lost home playoff game after Le’Veon Bell was hurt in the last game of the regular season on a Sunday night (Cincy). This was the LeGarrette Blount season.

2015: Lost to the eventual SB champs (a team with a historic defensive) in the divisional round after Le’Veon Bell was lost for the year (knee vs Cincy again), AB was lost (Cincy concussion game), and Ben was playing with a bad shoulder (also hurt in the Cincy game). Oh, yeah: the backup RB (De’Angelo Williams) was out for the year as well, hurt in the last regular season game vs. Cleveland. Still was one bad fumble away from likely winning that game. Also: their all-Pro center was out for the year.

2016: Went to the AFC Champ game with a hurt Le’Veon Bell. Lost to eventual SB champs. Played the tail end of this season without one of his best defensive players – Cam Heyward (hurt late season).

(***By the way: anyone seeing a theme with some of these late-season IR-leading injuries to top-flight players?!?!

2007?
2011?
2014?
2015?
2016?
2017?

How does Tomlin get blame for that? His fault for foot fractures, tore ACLs, or broken legs?)

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin (Marlon Martin / Golden Sky Media)

2017: With a 13-3 team, lost in divisional round after losing the heart of their defense one month prior (i.e., remember that the Shazier injury was 13 days BEFORE the NE game), causing their defensive to go from top 8 defense in the league to mediocre AT BEST. Gave up 45 points at home with a dude at MLB (Sean Spence) that sat roughly 12 games of the season on the couch. Still should NOT have been in that JAX game (i.e., should have been the #1 seed playing a BAD TEN team) if not for the “Jesse James” game and HORRIBLE Big Ben INT after the James reversal (again, no one talks about that HORRIBLE decision by a $100m QB…some of these “Tomlin losses” have been due to the QB being “a gunslinger” and losing winnable games much like Brett Favre…another QB who could easily have more rings if his style of play afforded better decisions)

BTW: lost that NE game at home without their best CB (Haden was hurt), best LB (Shazier) and the league’s best WR (Brown was hurt early in that game)…still lost because of James reversal and the bad QB decision afterwards.

2018: 9-6-1 after bad losses mid-season. I’ll give you that. Also will note that Conner was hurt and out for 3 games – when he was playing at a Pro Bowl-level. Bell was out (i.e., his own decision), and Brown was a huge headache all year long. That said: they went from possible #1 seed to missing the playoffs pretty fast.

2019: 8-8 with Duck Hodges (i.e., a 4th string QB to start training camp) and Mason Rudolph (i.e., 3rd string QB in 2018) at QB. JuJu missed 4 games. Conner missed 6 games and left during a 7th. Pouncey missed a game.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin during the preseason matchup vs the Carolina Panthers on August 29, 2019 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. (Montez Aiken / Golden Sky Media)

My point? I know…injuries happen to everyone. However, how many teams lose Pro Bowl-caliber talent late in the season and then do well (i.e., win multiple games) in the playoffs?

I have been a Steelers supporter as a native Pittsburgher. I wish that they won a few more SBs with this QB there. However, let’s be honest: things haven’t completely fallen into place with this team. This year showed us that there’s a drop-off from best WR or top-5 QB in the league to “next man up”, despite “…the standard is the standard…” Same is true for top-5 LB (Shazier in 2017), top-10 DL (Heyward), top-5 C (Pouncey), top-3 RB (Bell/Conner/Parker), and top-tier CB (Haden).

NE has never made it to the SB without a) playing in a division that was quite the opposite as the competitive AFC North (which often sent THREE teams to the playoffs between 2008-2015), having the 1st round bye, and not losing key components (minus not having Gronk in 2016) late in the season. Their “reign of terror” has so much to do with playing in that LOUSY division for 20 years (i.e., never more than 2 teams in the playoffs at one time – and usually only NE went) than anything else.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin during the team’s 2019 training camp in Latrobe, PA. (Sheila Thompson / Golden Sky Media)

Since 2007, the AFC North Champs:

PGH: 2007, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2016, 2017
BALT: 2011, 2012, 2018, 2019
CIN: 2009, 2013, 2015

The AFC North has had (minus Cleveland) some of the most talented and competitive football (and vicious hitting as well) over the past 20 years. Tomlin has been here for the majority of it and has multiple championships (division, conference, and SB) despite it…and the ill-fated injuries that come with all of that to boot.

Can some of us please just stop it with the “Tomlin hasn’t done enough” rhetoric? If 2019 won’t shut you up, please take a look at this year – and the whole record – to get more of why you might not completely get it (i.e., know what you’re talking about/have a waning memory based on your Yinzerism)

…just seems like something some Pittsburghers and some of #SteelerNation should give up on as a New Year’s Resolution for 2020.


LENNY MCALLISTER IS AN AWARD WINNING commentator who is a contributor to golden sky media.

Tomlin Discusses Mental Preparation in Week 17

Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Brian Cook / Golden Sky Media)

BALTIMORE (GSM) — Week 17 of the NFL season is here and there are 2 slots left — in both the AFC and the NFC — for teams to enter the postseason. The 6th seed of both conferences are up for grabs and Pittsburgh is on the outside looking in, needing a win and needing help to reach the tournament.

The Steelers will need to win against the Ravens and the Titans will need to lose to the Texans in order to gain the last playoff spot. 

Devlin “Duck” Hodges will get the start after throwing 2 interceptions against the Jets last week and was benched for Mason Rudolph. Rudolph was injured in the game after throwing a touchdown to Diontae Johnson and was ultimately placed on injured reserve.

After the shuffling of quarterbacks and leaving New York in the losing column, it is up to coaches and fellow teammates to help boost the morale of the team’s leader. In this case, “Duck” Hodges, by default. The undrafted quarterback has a chance to rebound from his latest performance and possibly solidify a spot o the roster in the future. Before that, it is imperative that his confidence is repaired. 

In his weekly press conference, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about the importance of players being mentally stable.

“Having a hardcore plan; having a level of consistency in terms of the procedure that is preparation, creates a constant that is an anchor for guys. That allows them to build — not only preparation — but confidence associated with it as you get closer to game time.”–Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin

The Steelers — who have an uphill battle — now face a Baltimore Ravens team that has already secured the #1 spot in the AFC, are resting their starters and have nothing to play for. 

BRIAN COOK IS AN EMMY-NOMINATED INTERNATIONAL JOURNALIST WHO HAS BEEN COVERING THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE SINCE 2005. HE CAN BE REACHED AT BCOOK@GOLDENSKYMEDIA.COM.
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Steelers Stay Alive in Playoff Hunt with Win Over the Browns

Steelers’ wide receiver James Washington (13) focuses on catching the 30-yard touchdown pass from Devlin Hodges on December 1, 2019 against the Cleveland Browns at Heinz Field. (Brian Cook / Golden Sky Media)

PITTSBURGH (GSM) — The Steelers control their own destiny!

The Pittsburgh Steelers are sitting with a record 7-5 and have — at the  moment — solidified their spot in the 2nd place in the AFC North division after defeating the Cleveland Browns 20-13 at Heinz field, Sunday. With a litany of injuries to starters on both sides of the ball, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin realizes his team was faced with an uphill battle and after the victory simply said no matter what, you have to get it done. “It feels good to win always, but it definitely feels good to win when you are faced with adversity in terms of people available to you,” Tomlin said. “There’s just less margin for error. Not that we feel like we are incapable, we just realize we have to play closer to optimum level.”

Tomlin made the necessary adjustments before the second half based on what he observed throughout the game. 
 
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin pointing at the referees during the game against the Cleveland Browns on December 1, 2019 at Heinz Field. (Brian Cook / Golden Sky Media)
“We felt like we needed to minimize their run in the second half more than we did in the first half and we needed to run it better than we did in the first half. We felt like it was 10-10 at the half, but they had won the line of scrimmage. They had more significant run plays, they had control of the time of possession. We needed to flip that.” — Mike Tomlin, Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers
 
Cornerback Joe Haden sealed the win for Pittsburgh with an interception against Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield and took to the postgame podium with a smile on his face knowing that, despite his individual play of 2 tackles and 1 INT, it was a good team win. “We just have a group of guys with Terrell [Edmunds], Steve Nelson and then the addition of Minkah [Fitzpatrick]. This is one of the best secondaries I have ever been a part of because we have communication, we have guys that are very football smart and are very capable of making plays.” Haden said “I feel like I am holding my side down, but everybody else is doing their thing in the back end.”
 
Running back Benny Snell Jr. rushed for 63 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. He said the win was dedicated to center Maurkice Pouncey who was suspended for the game due to the unfortunate on field altercation the last time the Steelers and Browns met where a fight broke out and Pouncey came to the defense of his teammates. “Him [Pouncey] not being out there with us, we wanted to get this win for him. That’s why we got the game ball for him as well. I’m happy and I’m proud!” 
 
Devlin “Duck” Hodges passes during the game against the Cleveland Browns on December 1, 2019 at Heinz Field (Brian Cook / Golden Sky Media)
For the second consecutive game QB Duck Hodges connected with wideout James Washington for a score. This time for 30 yards splitting two defenders for the touchdown. Washington says coach Tomlin’s motivation is what plays in his mind constantly. “Coach [Tomlin] would always say, ‘You never know how many opportunities you’re gonna get.’ What better game not to going out there and do that?!”
 
The Steelers head to Arizona to face the Cardinals who are 3-8 and in last place in the NFC West. 
 

BRIAN COOK IS AN EMMY-NOMINATED INTERNATIONAL JOURNALIST WHO HAS BEEN COVERING THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE SINCE 2005. HE CAN BE REACHED AT BCOOK@GOLDENSKYMEDIA.COM.
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Tomlin ‘Smiles in the Face of Adversity’ as Steelers Tackle Myriad of Injuries

Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin during the matchup against the Cleveland Browns. October 28, 2018 (Brian Cook / Golden Sky Media, FILE)

PITTSBURGH (GSM) — Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged that injuries are a part of the game. The realization of adjusting for the sudden — and always unexpected — changes in personnel can throw off team chemistry. However, Coach Tomlin has preached the, “next man up” approach on the journey to success as his team continues to heal.

Since the beginning of the 2019 season, the Steelers lost starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for the season due to an elbow injury on his throwing arm which required surgery. Starting defensive end Stephon Tuitt is out for the year with a pectoral tear, free safety Sean Davis was put on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, fullback Roosevelt Nix is also on IR with a knee ailment and kick returner/WR Ryan Switzer’s back will keep him from seeing action. Running back James Conner has missed significant time on the field as well when he re-aggravated his shoulder. Most recently, wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson in addition to linebacker Ola Adeniyi succumbed to concussions in the game against the Browns last Thursday night, just to name a few. Quite a few, actually.

While the team has seen its fair share of fallen players, Tomlin said in his weekly press conference Tuesday, “I don’t spend a lot of time crying over who’s available or who’s not available. It’s as much a part of the game as blocking or tackling,” Tomlin said. “If you are a competitor — like we as coaches are competitors — that fires you up. You want to smile in the face of adversity.” 

The Steelers will play on the road Sunday Nov. 24 against the winless Cincinnati Bengals (0-10), a team that would love to get a win against the Pittsburgh. The Steelers (5-5) are still mathematically alive in the playoff hunt and in 2nd place in the AFC North division.


BRIAN COOK IS AN EMMY-NOMINATED INTERNATIONAL JOURNALIST WHO HAS BEEN COVERING THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE SINCE 2005. HE CAN BE REACHED AT BCOOK@GOLDENSKYMEDIA.COM.
FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER  

Steelers Stave off Rams in Aaron Donald’s Return to Pittsburgh

Steelers wide receiver James Washington (13) and running back Jaylen Samuels celebrate following a touchdown in the 1st quarter against the Los Angeles Rams on November 10, 2019 at Heinz Field (Brian Cook / Golden Sky Media)

PITTSBURGH (GSM) — Lining them up and knocking them down. 

The Pittsburgh Steelers have won 4 straight and are currently the 6th seed in the playoff race. That’s right, if the playoffs were to start today, the black-n-gold would be in the race for their 7th ring. But it’s only week 11 which means there are more left games to be played.
 
Speaking of games, the Los Angeles Rams made their way across country to Heinz Field Sunday to face the streaking Steelers and got off to an early start, scoring a defensive touchdown on a high snap that went over the head of quarterback Mason Rudolph. the Rams’ Donta Fowler, Jr. picked up the fumble for a score. Despite the early lead in the 1st quarter, Pittsburgh responded with a touchdown of their own late in the 1st after Rudolph connected with wideout James Washington to even the score to 7-7.
 
Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick returns an interception against the Los Angeles Rams to secure victory on November 10, 2019 at Heinz Field. (Brian Cook / Golden Sky Media)
Steelers Safety Minkah Fitzpatrick continues to make clutch plays. He had two takeaways in the game, one fumble recovery for a touchdown — of course as retaliation — helping Pittsburgh rack up a defensive score of their own, and an interception at the end of the game to seal the deal. Fitzpatrick attributes his success to his teammates in addition to referencing his own ball awareness.
 
Final score was 17-12 in favor of the Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin praising his defense moments after the win.
 

“We have been open about that we need turnovers. Great defenses get themselves off the field. Great defenses stand up in the face of adversity when put on a short field. We have worked hard in that area.” Tomlin said, “It starts first with the acquisition of guys that are capable in that area. Can’t say enough about Minkah for example. The tear he is on is what it is; he needs no endorsement from me. But it is also our approach and who we work in the environmental element of our preparation. We just have to keep grinding.

Coach Tomlin says it always takes mental and physical strength to seal the deal. “…today we played, and I thought they played and played to win without fear. When you are playing a good opponent like the L.A. Rams, that is how you have to play. Thankfully, we are able to get a victory.”
 
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald returned to his hometown Pittsburgh to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 10, 2019. (Brian Cook / Golden Sky Media)
 
On the other side of the ball, former University of Pittsburgh defensive end Aaron Donald, now defensive tackle for the Los Angeles Rams is a native of Pittsburgh. He mentioned how it was a nice homecoming for both he and the people who watched him grow into the player he is today. “This is home. To be back at Heinz Field — where I played 4-years here in college [University of Pittsburgh] —  to be back here performing and to back here at home with my family watching, family and friends, it’s a good feeling.”
 
Donald was instrumental on defense, recording a half sack along with linebacker Clay Matthews which resulted in a safety. Despite his performance, Donald expressed his disappointment as his team came up short.
 
“I feel like we played well as a defense. We scored points, made turnovers, and made big stops,” Donald said. “There is always room for improvement, but I felt like overall I was proud of how the defense played today.” – Aaron Donald
 
The Steelers, however are on a short week and travel to face the Cleveland Browns — for the first of two matchups this season on Thursday night. The Browns defeated the Bills Sunday with a record of 3-6 and are in 3rd place in the AFC North behind the Steelers who are in 2nd with a record of 5-4. The Ravens are currently leading the division — 2 games ahead of Pittsburgh — at 7-2.
 


BRIAN COOK IS AN EMMY-NOMINATED INTERNATIONAL JOURNALIST WHO HAS BEEN COVERING THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE SINCE 2005. HE CAN BE REACHED AT BCOOK@GOLDENSKYMEDIA.COM.
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