Mike Tomlin’s Tuesday Press Conference was anything but good. Tomlin finished it early, called out many different players and ultimately made sure to emphasize that Sunday was nothing short of a failure. As a result, several roster moves were made on the depth chart which are going to affect the team moving forward not just this year, but in the years to come.
First for what I think is the most blatant change: Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace are co-No.1 receivers opposite Antonio Brown. Wallace’s lack of production combined with Sanders’ ability to be open and make big plays as of late made this move inevitable scheme wise but the outright acknowledgement of Wallace’s demotion tells a lot about the future of the team.
Wallace is not fitting into Hailey’s new system. Wallace wants Ben to chuck it deep and then outrun anyone covering him. Works alright Mike, but your speed will leave you and Hailey’s system is better for your development. Wallace, who is in another contract year, has decided to have hands of stone and it has cost the Steelers. AB’s contract extension was the writing on the wall that Wallace’s time in Black and Gold was coming to an end. Unless Wallace significantly backs down on his demands (Larry Fitz type money, which he is MAYBE earning a quarter of at this point) Wallace will be overpaid by some other willing team like the Raiders or Broncos.
Next up was J. Dwyer getting the number one running back job. I can’t say it isn’t deserved, especially after he showed his ability against tougher defenses like Baltimore. (Another rant for another day.) Mendy hasn’t looked the same this year and his time in Pittsburgh may be up with this move. Today’s NFL has UDFA running backs producing at the same level as top 10 picks and recent success with guys like Isaac Readman and Willie Parker mean cheap replacements.
I was more shocked at how Tomlin brushed off Rainey’s injury saying the guy “was just looking for support.” To me, that low hit looked like it twisted Rainey’s leg pretty bad and I was afraid something broke. I have no problem with a coach calling out a player who hasn’t performed all year, but Rainey hasn’t been given the shot to even warrant such a call out. Every time he comes in, it’s on shotgun and it’s telegraphed that the play is an outside gap run to use his speed. Fast Willie needed a few seasons in the league to learn how to harness his speed before he was ready for every down action and Rainey will need much of the same. Calling him out when the entire unit had an awful day doesn’t help.
Finally and most importantly, the offensive line shake up. With Adams going down, it mens Kelvin Beachum gets the call at tackle. Do you want to stick a recovering Big Ben behind a line with a third string tackle against the Ravens? Neither do I. Ben won’t play in this one because of how shaky the o-line has been. That more than likely means 6-6 and a miracle for a playoff run.
Moral of this story: The Browns game was as low as you could go as a football team. Tomlin expressed this and made some moves that show this. Other moves were for necessity and show that the Steelers have offseason holes to fill. Regardless, this season has taken a complete 180 and the Steelers need to seriously look in the mirror and see if this is how they want this season to be remembered.