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Tomlin’s Decision-Making is Baffling

I’m spoiled and you’re spoiled and all of Steelers’ Nation is spoiled right? Six Super Bowl titles and eight Super Bowl appearances when there are teams out there dying for just a playoff berth. Yup, we’re spoiled alright and we should just be happy to have a team with such stability in the front office and on the sidelines and we all need to just shut up. Is that what we are supposed to do?

For some, maybe, but for me? No way. I am grateful to be a Steelers’ fan and I am grateful for the stability and I believe Mike Tomlin is one of the better coaches in the NFL but that doesn’t make him or the organization untouchable to criticism and there is plenty of it right now.

At 6-4, the Steelers are still in control of their playoff destiny if there is such a thing, but I can’t help but wonder what is going on in the mind Mike Tomlin when he does some of things he does during a football game. My concerns are not relegated to just game-management but to use of personnel as well.

Can anyone come up with a viable explanation as to why Byron Leftwich was allowed to keep playing despite broken ribs suffered when he tripped and fell in the end zone on the third play of the game? If you tell me that a broken Byron Leftwich is better than a healthy Charlie Batch then we have bigger problems than I first thought.

My assumption on why Leftwich was allowed to keep playing had nothing to do with the game, it had to do with the week of preparation leading up to the game that was the problem. I’ll bet my Terrible Towel that Charlie Batch didn’t take one meaningful snap in practice last week as the team readied Byron Leftwich for starting duty. Do I blame Tomlin and Todd Haley for getting Leftwich as many snaps as possible? Yes, I do because what exactly has Lefty shown during his time in Pittsburgh to make them think he could go a full game, much less three plays, without getting hurt? Batch should have prepped for duty.

Perhaps the greater concern was Batch himself. Tomlin and Haley knew that if they went with Batch too soon and then he were injured then that meant Heath Miller playing quarterback. Miller cannot save Mike Adams’ ass and play QB at the same time. Fine, I’ll buy that argument but what I can’t get on board with is why wasn’t he replaced in the second half when it was obvious he couldn’t throw it more than 20 yards in any direction?

That absolute abortion of a final play spoke volumes of Tomlin’s mishandling of the situation as Leftwich threw a short pass over the middle in hopes of starting an otherwise ill-fated ‘lateral-fest’ that ended before it began with the Ravens’ laughing all the way to a two-game lead in the division. A healthy Leftwich can throw the ball 70 yards or more in the air which is exactly what the Steelers needed to do there but couldn’t because of his injury.

Now there is no choice but to start Charlie Batch at quarterback in the second of three straight rivalry games for Pittsburgh. If any of you think Cleveland is just going to roll over and die then you’ve got another thing coming. This will be a war like last week and it will be a war like next week will be too.

I have faith in Batch to take care of the ball and make the right calls at the line and make sure this offense does what it supposed to do. Where my faith lags is in the decision-making of Mike Tomlin who continuously baffles us all on a weekly basis it seems.

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25 comments

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  1. Robert

    I agree with this article. I have never seen a game that the Steelers won because of Tomlin’s in game adjustments. He seems like he is lost during the game and gives politically correct answers to the media. He talks a good game but does not back it up.

  2. Sean Durity

    I attended my first Tomlin press conference after this game. I am a rookie, for sure, but Tomlin is intimidating. Also, he gives such short, pat answers that it seems most reporters skip to the locker room instead of the press conference. The questions and answers are so predictable.

  3. Marc Uhlmann

    I am astounded each week during Tomlin’s pressers by how timid the reporters are. After the Ravens’ game there was plenty to address at Tomlin yet they skirted the big questions once again.

  4. Marc Uhlmann

    We can debate the merits of Cowher v Tomlin ad nauseum but I know which overall group of talent I would say is better.

    My task as a writer is to provide opinion and not everyone agrees with it. I will never claim to be the smartest football person around but I feel pretty good about my knowledge and ability to break down the Steelers. Again, not everyone will agree but that’s kind of the point. Thanks for reading.

  5. Thomas Leonard

    First, To the response that Bill Cowher inherited a bad team from the declining Noll Regime, Chuck Noll left behind Carnell Lake (NFL All Decade Team 90s), Greg Lloyd (5 time Pro Bowler), Rod Woodson (Franchise leader in Int, NFL HOF), Dermonti Dawson (8 Pro Bowls, 2nd longest consecutive games streak in franchise history, NFL HOF), Gary Anderson (2nd leading scorer in NFL History), John Jackson (Pro Bowl Tackle), Barry Foster (Pro Bowl RB), and Neil O’Donnell (Pro Bowl QB, 1995 Team MVP). Noll in fact may have left a better team for Cowher than Cowher left for Tomlin.

    Second, Tomlin’s drafts have produced LaMarr Woodley & Lawrence Timmons, as well as Pouncey. The jury is still out on Ziggy Hood and Cameron Heyward and prior to this injury plagued season Rashard Mendenhall has been very productive as a starter, with over 3,200 yards and 30 TD in three seasons. Tomlin’s regime has done a very good job in replacing the broken parts and quickley aging deficiencies left over from Cowher.

    Third, as for his coaching, all coaches are second guessed. Bill Belichek is still gettimg heat for the failed 4′th and 1 play that cost them a game vs Ind three years ago, let alone his ultra conservative playing for a FG approach that failed in this year’s loss to Ari. Over the last three years NE has drafted over a dozen high profile defensive players and still their defense is among the worst in football. You might notice that since the 2007 AFC Championship Game The Pats are 2-4 in the post season.

    Personally I didnt have a problem with the Fake FG call vs NYG except the execution was poor. As for Leftwhich, did he ever tell the coaches he was too injured to play ? Did he not have streaks, individual plays, throughout the game that were impressive, did he not lead them on an 80 yard drive in the 3rd quarter for a score, did Pgh not gain 340 yards of offense ? Leftwhich never played poorly enough in a close game to think he couldnt “get it going”, assuming he was healthy. If Tomlin & Staff didnt know the severity of his injuries, should they be blamed ? Steeler fans surely remember Greg Lloyd breaking Joe Montana’s ribs in the 1993 Playoffs. Montana left the game, got his ribs taped, took a pain killer, and completed 21 of 28 passes for 208 yards to end the game, leading KC to 20 second half points in a come back OT win. Maybe Byron should have been honest, it might have helped.

  6. gjn129

    The Pittsburgh press is too timid to go after Tomlin. His jibber jabber (i.e. it is what it is, situational football, etc.) keeps them from asking the tough questions. I agree with the writer about Batch not being prepared to step in. Even Leftwich said that prior to last week he hadn’t taking a snap with the starting team.

  7. Marc Uhlmann

    Thanks for reading Scuba. What you call whining I call being critical. I like Mike Tomlin as our head coach but that doesn’t mean I can’t criticize him when necessary. Comparing him to Cowher is apples and oranges. Tomlin took over a team loaded with talent and Super Bowl experience while Cowher had to deal with the leftovers of a declining Noll regime. While their overall records at this juncture are very similar, Cowher did as much as Tomlin and with much less talent starting out. Speaking for myself and Matt who also writes here, we tell it like it is. We aren’t homers like other writers who blow sunshine up everyone’s ass. And for the record, Tomlin has one Super Bowl win, not multiple.

  8. Scuba Steve

    You Steelers fans are all the same with your constant whining! It doesn’t matter if they are winning, losing or not even on T.V.that week, Steelers fans are not happy unless they are complaining and crying about the team. Tomlin has surpassed Cower in every important aspect of coaching and has multiple Super Bowl wins so leave him to do the decision making and go whine about the Pirates since they deserve it.

  9. Brian

    nice article. I still say the the last game they should have ran the ball more and Leftwich should have been more of a game manager

  10. Marc Uhlmann

    I’ve heard many argue that point and I guess my answer to that would be would you rather have Russ Grimm or Ken Whisenhunt coaching this team? I’ll stick with Tomlin for now, but he has some serious confidence building to do with me down the stretch. As far as a young QB, I’ve argued that point as well. No reason they couldn’t have kept Jerrod Johnson on the practice squad.

  11. Goodeye

    Tomlin is a joke. No young QB in the wings learning from Ben and either Batch or Lefty?
    I have no clue why he would leave Lefty in there when the whole world including that nit wit in the booth
    knew he was injured. He was only hired because the Rooney had to back up the Rooney rule!

  12. Marc Uhlmann

    I still believe Tomlin is an effective coach in many facets of the game but he is having a horrible go of it over the last 18 months. His in-game thought process has to change. The call was easily the worst of Haley’s tenure as OC and I would be saying that even if the pass had been completed.

  13. Marc Uhlmann

    Interesting you say that because I guarantee if this team continues to head south those rumors will start for sure!

  14. viny

    Tomlin has been overrated since day one. its the supporting cast that saves him and makes him look better than he is, Lebeau is done now too. its time for Kieth Butler to take over the D. On the last field goal, Dwyer ran us to the 2 and he didnt get a chance to go again. What kind of play calling was that?

  15. davidt

    u r so right all we needed was one meaningful touchdown at home and we kick the raven’s ass bad coaching all around, maybe haley is seetting him up to fail so he can take over huh.

  16. Marc Uhlmann

    The thing with that play was even more than the call itself. Wallace was doubled and it would have taken a pass similar to Ben’s throw to Santonio in SB XLIII to have been successful. Should have been a very different call there.

  17. dale r schaffner sr.

    ur right about that 3rd and 2 call we could have got the first down before we got the touchdown and then had four more cracks to put 7 onn the board that was the game our defence was playing good enough to stop them they scored 6 points allnight 2 lousy field goals allnight we should havs won

  18. Marc Uhlmann

    Believe me JT, I lit Tomlin up for that decision and I’m sadly finding myself in a pattern of doing this all too often. I appreciate his aggressiveness and desire to trust his players but sometimes you have to go with your brain and not your gut.

  19. Marc Uhlmann

    I’m not real sure I wouldn’t have looked up Johnson as well. For one game at the very least he would have been able to come in if necessary and at least be serviceable. I’m not ready to call this defense anything close to the Steel Curtain but they arfe playing very well right now. If we can just start creating some turnovers.

  20. JT

    I totally agree with the article and have to add that a third QB should have been put on the roster the minute that Ben was declared out for the game. I can only assume that Tomlin is good with players, motivation etc. But, since he became the Steelers’ head coach I have seen far too many bad field decisions. One recent example before Sunday night was the Tennessee game where with almost no time he goes for a 54 yard field goal to break the tie allowing Tennessee to have great field position after the miss and move the ball enough to win the game in regulation as opposed to going to overtime. Many other bad decisions but this comment form does not have enough space.

  21. charles

    I liked Johnson in Pre season. He has some esperience with Haley’s offense, If we lose Batch we would still have a slim chance. Further, the way the defense is playing is reminding me of the Steel Curtain, they are giving us a chance in these conference games. We have to find a way to win THESE CONFERENCE GAMES!

  22. Marc Uhlmann

    Totally agree. I explored that decision in my post-game wrap-up Sunday night. Your reasoning is the same as mine. There was no chance they would get down there again short of a turnover so a better pass play or running the ball was a far greater option. Thanks for reading.

  23. Marc Uhlmann

    I really thought that either guy was going to have pros and cons, but leaned towards Lefty just because he could more around a little better. I just hope Charlie can stay upright for the entire game on Sunday. Thanks for reading!

  24. Karen

    The only thing we differ about is that I thought Charlie should have started the game. I mean really what has Leftwich ever done for the steelers beside cash his paycheck. Charlie is 5-2 as a starter, he should have been given the chance from the begining.

  25. elyod

    The real question is why Tomlin went for the fade throw to the corner on third down and 1 from the two yard line in the fourth quarter. The Steelers surely weren’t going to get another opportunity that good to take a lead. Tomlin should have run the ball….twice if necessary to get a TD or a first down. THAT….not the decision to play Leftwich was his biggest mistake of that game.

    Kicking a field goal which still left the team down by three points….playing at home….with the offense not doing much….Tomlin was asleep there.

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