Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For the Steelers, 2013 is over. Is it time to blame the Rooney’s?


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was some sad irony in the Steelers 34-27 loss to the Vikings in London on Sunday. On the day when one of their all time greatest players passed away, the 2013 Steelers sunk to a new low.

 

RIP L.C. Greenwood:

 

Mandatory Credit: ESPN.com

Mandatory Credit: ESPN.com

 

 

 

 

On Sunday, former defensive end L.C. Greenwoood passed away at the young age of sixty-seven. I had the great honor of attending an autograph show where Greenwood, Greene, Holmes and White were together for the last time. Hanging in my home office is a great photo of the famed four standing on the field awaiting the for opposing offense to break the huddle.

Each man signed the photo in gold, L.C’s signature the most pronounced of all. Of the four, he and Dwight White were the friendliest and most talkative that day, although all four were very nice and even humbled by the compliments fans were giving them as they signed photos, jerseys, and helmets. I still strongly feel that both Greenwood and LB Andy Russell belong in the Hall of Fame, the only two remaining players from the dynasty years I feel deserve to get in. Along with Randy Gradishar and Harold Carmichael (and maybe Drew Pearson and Ken Stabler) they are the players I feel need to be inducted sooner than a lot of guys like Tim Brown and Andre Reed who I feel were nothing more than stat collectors.

I know many feel different, especially about Brown, but that’s a debate for another time. Greenwood’s passing was sad because here was another great icon from the dynasty years that marked a sad reminder of when it was glorious to be a Steeler fan.

 

And now, onto Sundays debacle

Hard to believe that we are only at October first, yet for all intents and purposes, the Steelers season is over. Four games in and they are done. They haven’t won a game since December 2012.  And being fans, nothing satisfies us more than to point fingers at those to blame. Last week I suggested it was time to clean house, from GM Kevin Colbert to HC Mike Tomlin to OC Todd Haley and DC Dick Lebeau. With the bye week upon us, we can expect nothing in Steeler land to happen, no great shakeup is in-store. Heading into their October 13th game against the Jets (a game I will be attending), all things will look just like they did on Sunday. Therein lies the problem. The Steelers are not a team that shakes things up.

Right now it’s obvious that Mike Adams is a disaster at tackle and that all those high OL draft picks are garbage. On defense, Ryan Clark needs to be benched. Time to give Shamarko Thomas a start to see what he can do. Time to bench the useless Ziggy Hood and play Al Woods or anyone else (but Heyward) more. This is the worst Steeler defense I can remember since the late 1980′s. ZERO, count them zero forced turnovers in four games and next to no pass rush whatsoever. It’s painfully clear Dick Lebeau was allowed to hang on a year too long.

Obviously, opposing offensive coordinators have figured out his blitz packages and coverage schemes. I mean Jake Locker and Matt Cassel have looked like world beaters, imagine later this season when Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers play this defense. Can anyone say yikes???

As someone who has loved the Steelers since January of 1975, this is hard and painful to watch, and even harder to write about. I want to say they can still turn this around, the talent is there. But I can’t and there isn’t. They haven’t been this bad since 1968 and only one team that started 0-4 has ever made the playoffs : the 1992 Chargers. However, with New England, Green Bay and the Ravens twice to come, it is unlikely the Steelers will join the ’92 Chargers in that category.

 

Is it finally time to blame the Rooney’s?

Alright, first and foremost it’s idiotic to question an ownership group that has produced twenty six playoff teams, eight conference champions and six Superbowl champions, and a slew of Hall of Fame players and a Head coach. However, it’s equally idiotic not to question them at this moment. Last Sunday night, during the Steelers-Bears game, NBC showed us a shot of the owner’s box at Heinz Field and aimed it right at Dan Rooney, (who eerily resembled the old man from the movie ‘Up’), looking on glumly at what was transpiring on the field. As I watched that shot of Rooney, I realized he was most to blame. Yes, I know he doesn’t handle much of the day-to-day stuff anymore, another Rooney does, but since he is the overall top dog, he is most responsible.

Earlier that day I had watched a documentary on the Steelers called “The Pittsburgh Steelers:Behind the Steel Curtain” which was a look at their dynasty years from 1972-1980. Near the end, they remarked on the ‘steady, consistent’ leadership of the Steelers under the Rooney family. And I realized that no matter what may happen, even an 0-16 season would not see an earth-shattering change in ‘The Steeler Way’.

Let’s be painfully honest here: Mike Tomlin is going nowhere. As much as it sickens me to write it, he has the most job security of any coach in the NFL, simply because he coaches the Steelers and the Steelers don’t fire their head coaches. Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher both had their bad stretches, but both were allowed to bow out on their own.

It’ll be the same deal with Tomlin. And that is my major complaint about the Rooney leadership, their head coaches feel no threat to their job security. Tomlin is as to blame as much as anyone, save for GM Kevin Colbert who has assembled this mess. I know Mike has his fans, especially when I compared Tomlin to Cowher to see who was a better fit as coach for the Steelers.  Yeah, I got raked over the coals for that one when I picked Cowher. Well, how does Tomlin look now?

I for one am so sick of his inane press conferences, his all style and no substance coaching, and his wide-eyed, blank stares as he prowls the sidelines. It was nice to see a little fire in his press conference after the Vikings game, but believe me, that won’t translate into anything come tomorrow. “We’ve got to get better,” was his latest gem. Four games following an entire preseason and they’ve got to get better? Did he not have this team ready to go?

All the fundamentals he talked about (tackling, etc ) are on HIM, he’s the head coach, the teacher, the drillmaster, it’s his job to pound fundamentals into these guys. Supposedly, this past training camp was one of the more physical they’ve had, yet none of us have seen any signs of  this translating to the field. When will the Rooney family understand Mike Tomlin is not a head coach in this league?

 

My case against Tomlin

Few coaches have walked into a situation where there was such good talent on hand as Tomlin did in 2007. Yes, Bill Cowher’s last year with the team in 2006 produced an 8-8 record following a Superbowl championship, but he did not leave the cupboard bare, just like Noll didn’t leave Cowher devoid of talent when he took over.

In Tomlin’s first year with the team, seventeen of his starters were starters under Cowher, and 43 of the 53 men on the roster were from Cowher’s last team. Tomlin’s 2008 Superbowl Championship was won with thirteen starters from Cowher’s 2006 team and 31 players  from Cowher’s last team.

The 2010 Superbowl team saw only eight starters and twenty one players with ties to Cowher, so Tomlin gets some credit for that. Three years later, only seven players remain from Cowher’s 2006 team and here they sit at 0-4 after an 8-8 season last year. My point?

Tomlin can’t win with guys he’s had a hand in choosing. Again, Colbert gets his share of the blame, but Tomlin just can neither motivate nor coach his own guys. There is no fire or passion in this group. and that has to come somewhat from the head coach and there is none. Tomlin spoke about getting rid of guys, as if he already knows come what may he’ll be back in 2014.

If I was Dan Rooney, I’d bring Tomlin into my office and say “coach, you’ve got twelve games to keep your job”. Nothing more and nothing less. Tomlin isn’t owed a thing, his job should be no more secure than anyone else in the NFL. But that’s not in the Rooney DNA, and that’s the problem. Look, I know the Rooney’s along with the Mara’s are NFL royalty and they have not destroyed once proud franchises like Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder have with the Cowboys and Redskins respectively. However, that shouldn’t put them above doing the right thing for this franchise and gutting it from the top down.

As strange as it sounds, in sports,sometimes steady and consistent can be a negative.

 

follow me on twitter @scott8871

Tags: Mike Tomlin Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Jimmy Stuart

    Believe me Scott I feel your fustration, and I would like you to answer a question for me. When Bill Cowher went 7-9, 6-10, 9-7, losing 15 out of 21 games in ’98 and ’99 would you have fired him? I just want your opinion.

    • Justin

      That’s a good question. I feel like at least Cowher tried, that he cared. It just seems, to me, like Tomlin is content to stand on the sidelines with his trademark deer-in-the-headlights look and continue not coaching. I know he’s not an in your face coach like Bill but with the way we’ve been playing, how can you not lose it just once and flip out on someone when Ben is on the ground again?

    • scott sinclair

      Yes, I would have.

  • Dan Riedel

    This article is garbage.

    Art Rooney rocked the boat by firing Arians when the Steelers were still a winning team. You don’t radically change something that works, you tweak it. Art didn’t give Tomlin a chance to do so.

    Tomlin had no other choice but to hire someone after the heir to the throne was in an accident. You can’t blame him.

    But like you mentioned before it IS the Rooney’s fault…. not Dan, but Art – because he thought he had something to prove by making the team his own and changing what worked under his father. Like a spoiled brat.

  • Jimmy Stuart

    Scott, thanks for a honest answer….Do you think that takes the Steelers out of the Super Bowl in 2005?

    • scott sinclair

      That’s an interesting question. It might have. it would have depended on who was brought in and which players stayed, etc. Remember, that 2005 team had to win out just to make the playoffs and if not for a miracle tackle by Ben against Indy they wouldn’t have made the Superbowl. But it is an interesting question.

      • Jimmy Stuart

        “in sports,sometimes steady and consistent can be a negative.”
        Scott, with the advantage of hindsight we have to say the Rooney’s did the right thing by not firining Cowher. I think you alway have the delima of, if you fire the coach, who do you replace him with? You’re going from the know to the unknown. If the new guy does turn it around in 2-3 years, now you got fire him , then you’ve moved from the frying pan into the fire. Then you have a revolving door like the Raiders, Cowboys or Browns…..I vote to stuck with steady and consistent .

        • Jimmy Stuart

          If the new guy doesn’t turn it around in 2-3 years, now you got fire him ,

          • Jimmy Stuart

            Scott, what happened to my reply to Justin ?

          • scott sinclair

            i don’t know, I didn’t see it

        • scott sinclair

          Fair enough. Part of my point is there seems to be no sense of urgency or fire in Tomlin because he knows he’s safe regardless and sometimes when a coach seems complacent, the team suffers. I don’t think the Steelers need to go the way of Bermuda triangles like the Cowboys and Redskins do business, but they remind me of the New York Giants, they stick with things way too long until the wheels almost fall off. Noll got the stick around for nearly 20 years, Cowher got 14 but by the time they left, things had run their course. Tomlin is signed until 2016 (ug), so there’s no reason to think given their track record that he won’t be fired before that. But if (and I know ‘if’ includes a lot of factors) this team finishes 4-12, 5-11, etc and next year has a losing record, that’ll be three years in a row with a losing record. yes, I am projecting here so forgive me, but at what point does ownership look at things and go “hey. maybe we made a mistake with this guy. Let’s put him on notice and see how he reacts.” None of us would want to work under those conditions granted, but coaching is a different beast altogether, some guys hang on too long, some guys don’t get more of a chance. Look at Pete Carroll, the Jets dumped him and he goes to USC and forms a mini-dynasty and now look what he’s done in Seattle. If they were to fire Tomlin, a guy like Jon Gruden or Brian Billick would make a good choice because of their offensive backgrounds. Going the college route is so iffy, but guys like Charlie Strong and Chris Peterson intrigue me.
          Sorry for the lengthy response, but you make a very valid point and I wanted to respond with my reasoning.

          • Jimmy Stuart

            Thank you for the lengthy reponse. :) And I see your reasoning. Like I replied to Justin my theory about Tomlins lack of fire, emotion or urgency is, he is from the Tony Dungy coaching tree and Dungy is from the Chuck Knoll coaching tree and from everything I’ve every seen or heard about Coach knolll is that he was never a screamer. Then compare that to what Steeler fans are use to seeing “The Chin”, spit flying everywhere, face to face sideline screaming player corrections. :) And they wonder why his’ not doing anything. I just hope that behind closed doors he is putting a foot in somebody’s behind trying to motivate this team.

  • emf

    Scott,
    Unlike Dan, I do not feel this article is ‘garbage’. I do see your point, but I don’t wonder if we shouldn’t “blame” the Rooney’s so much as we should “fault” them. You mention steady and consistent in regards to their leadership, I would go the way of saying they are ‘patient’ with their head coaches. Patience can be a plus, but it can also be a problem, if they are too patient, things can go bad quickly.They (the Rooneys)stick with their head coaches through it all. I truthfully think with Tomlin they took a chance and in the first few years, it worked nicely for whatever reason (other coaches’ players, his style, etc) but now I think Tomlin’s inexperience is showing a little. He doesn’t seem to know how to handle this adversity and he was handed a walking time bomb in Todd Haley (wait until that one goes off), so that adds to the mix. I wouldn’t say he’s awful at this point, but maybe not suitable anymore, I don’t know. Yes, he is signed for three more years and I too feel he will be given all three of those years, even though I don’t agree with it. As you said, Kevin Colbert is as much to blame as anyone, he’s made a mess of things with the salary cap and his draft picks (Adams, Decastro, Mendenhall, Hood) have not worked out. Maybe a new GM a new DC and OC and some high draft picks (and some good, value free agent signings??? please???) will turn things around quick.

    Good article though

    • Jimmy Stuart

      emf,
      Sometimes you have to go 6-10 or 5-11 to get that franchise changing player. We need a Stud left tackle. That’s how we got Ben, we went 6-10 the year before.

      • scott sinclair

        As painful as it sounds, maybe if we land a top 5 spot we can grab Matthews or Lewan.

    • scott sinclair

      Good comment, maybe ‘fault’ was the better choice of words. And yes they are patient, you are right about that

    • Jimmy Stuart

      emf, we never make any free agent signings or trades….The Fix is In: Ravens Trade for (Jags OT)Monroe, Instantly Upgrade Offense…how come we never make moves like this?. Did you see that “30 for 30″ on the Clevland Browns before they moved….Belechick figured out the secrect to NFL personnel success and shared it to Ozzie Newsom….