Kovacevic: Tomlin's tough talk too late
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Silent, stone-faced and almost motionless, Mike Tomlin stood inside the double-doors of the Steelers' locker room to shake hands with every player, as he always does.
Not a syllable exchanged.
And once the last of them crossed — it was Mike Wallace, fittingly, given his late arrival to the game itself — Tomlin pulled those doors shut and began barking, loud enough to be heard from here to San Diego.
I don't know what all he wound up saying and, in all honesty, couldn't care less.
Not after the Steelers had just been … not beaten, but smoked by a 5-8 San Diego outfit, 34-24, on Sunday at Heinz Field.
Smoked a week after that buoyant victory in Baltimore.
Smoked by Norv Turner, who earlier in the week was reading reports that the Chargers will fire him at season's end.
Smoked by Philip Rivers, who was petulantly gabbing all day as if he weren't, you know, Philip Rivers.
Smoked by a team missing three, often four, offensive linemen.
And most shamefully, smoked in the same season as similar losses to Oakland, Tennessee and Cleveland.
Sorry, Coach, but tearing 'em up after the game is too little, too late.
And besides, this is far too many lousy losses to think it could be anyone else's fault but the man in charge.
Oh, sure, Tomlin opened his postgame news conference with the standard, “We accept responsibility for it. We move on.” But that really shouldn't cut it this time. This shouldn't be about moving on. This should be about figuring out why the Steelers can't move on every time it seems like they will, why they're 7-6 when they oh-so-easily could sit atop the AFC.
They could start by simply acknowledging the trend.
When I asked Tomlin if he saw connections between this loss and those other three, he replied, “I hadn't thought about it in that way. All I focused on was our poor performance today.”
Really, no thought?
Can anyone else explain why it keeps happening?
Ben Roethlisberger: “I have no clue. If I knew, I don't think we'd do it anymore.”
Isaac Redman: “Can't say.”
Even Ryan Clark, always the most candid and colorful of the room, was reduced to this: “The team with the lesser record has played better than we have.”
Look, I could throw darts blindfolded and find targets for blame Sunday.
Todd Haley's head-scratching playcalling included a fourth-and-1 in which Redman took a deep handoff with no fullback, a last-minute drive in the first half in which Plaxico Burress wore a tousle cap in standing next to Haley and, by far most inexplicable, a generally bad time to revisit the very Ben-being-Ben strategy he'd been hired to ditch, given Roethlisberger returning from a serious injury.
The players deserve it, too, from Doug Legursky being blown off the line on that fourth-and-1 to Curtis Brown playing matador on every San Diego third down to Mike Wallace's early drops that earned him 61,359 seriously bitter boos.
But let's not kid anyone: This is on Tomlin, front to finish.
It starts with preparation, always the coach's domain. Sure, as I'd heard, Brett Keisel gave a rousing pregame speech in which he warned teammates, “If we don't come out to play, this team can beat us!” But when a green player such as Curtis Brown confesses afterward that he “probably drunk the wine a little bit” after Baltimore and “didn't prepare well enough,” the coaching staff must see it and act on it.
That's not something you find out Sunday.
What happened to Tomlin being the “players' coach?”
It's about discipline, too. There were eight penalties in this game, even back-to-back offsides for veterans Troy Polamalu and James Harrison. We've seen it far too often.
What happened to Tomlin's demanding ways?
For that matter, what happened to his ability to manage a game?
Although others might, I won't take issue with keeping Roethlisberger in once San Diego pulled away. He'd been cleared to play, showed no ill signs and the Steelers proved with a couple quick strikes — just as the Chargers proved with a 24-point collapse earlier this season — that a comeback was realistic.
But I absolutely will blame Tomlin for being maddeningly inconsistent about that.
Catch his explanation for not going for two points once the Steelers pulled within 34-16?
Better sit down.
“Until we stopped them, it was going to be insignificant,” Tomlin said. “I was holding the two-point plays for that reason and that reason only. Now, we still have them in our hip pocket. Those specialty plays, we didn't want to put on tape unless we had an opportunity to close the gap. As you can see, we didn't.”
Well, either you're in the game or not.
Which was it?
A two-point conversion there puts the Steelers within two TDs and two more conversions of tying the score with 6:07 to play.
Unrealistic, sure, but Tomlin apparently saw it as realistic enough to keep the franchise quarterback on the field, right?
On the bright side, they can take all those wicky-wacky, two-point plays next week to Dallas, right there in the hip pocket.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers QB Roethlisberger not targeting Oct. 25 return
- Penguins make moves in advance of roster deadline
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not worried about Jones’ lack of sacks
- Medical Examiner identifies Baldwin Borough couple who died in murder-suicide
- Penguins rally in wake of Dupuis injury
- Wolf still seeking to raise income tax, impose tax on shale-gas drilling
- Johnstown man accused of sexual misconduct at state park
- Cat found shot with arrow in Penn Township expected to survive
- Top U.S. general wants more troops in Afghanistan
- Starkey: Searage, Pirates ultra-confident
- New Steelers kicker Boswell ready for challenge at Heinz