Mark Madden: Little tweaks could give Steelers much-needed attitude adjustment
This is one of the most talented groups the Steelers have assembled: Four first-team All-Pros. Eight Pro Bowlers. The NFL's best wide receiver. A Hall-of-Fame quarterback. One of the league's top running backs.
But this group won't ever win.
New England, under Coach Bill Belichick, shows up for work. Jacksonville, under VP/football ops Tom Coughlin, shows up for work.
The Steelers, under Coach Mike Tomlin, show up for (to quote Red Forman) super wonderful crazy fun time. They yap constantly and indulge counterproductive stupidity. This season was nonstop chaos dipped in arrogance, and it added up to looking ahead to an AFC championship game rematch with the Patriots that won't happen.
Safety Mike Mitchell guaranteed the Steelers would win that, BTW.
There are too few men in that locker room, and too many little boys.
This is the era of the no-ring mafia.
How can you fix it?
You probably can't. Not without a coaching change, and the Steelers have no intention of axing Tomlin. (The limited partners are just that: limited.)
Despite too often mangling big situations like Sunday's 45-42 home loss to Jacksonville, Tomlin's record won't allow him to be fired. His .659 winning percentage ranks second among active coaches and 15th all-time.
You'd think he'd know when to on-side kick.
So, changing the culture won't happen. But a tweak can be affected. A bit of an attitude adjustment.
If you want to get their attention, shoot a hostage.
Here's who needs to go:
• Mitchell. Mitchell trolled the Jacksonville locker room before the game, telling the Jaguars, “Y'all gonna know my name.” (This may have been inspired by the time Heisenberg met rival drug dealers in the desert.)
But things broke bad (GET IT?) for Mitchell: The Steelers lost. Mitchell played his usual ineffective football and got wiped out by a block. The Jaguars' players had a hearty laugh at Mitchell's expense after.
Mitchell is easily replaced, and his all-bark, minimal-bite act would be a welcome departure.
• Inside linebacker Vince Williams. This clown renamed himself “Bince” because he fancied himself a “Killer B” like Ben, Brown and Bell. Williams even had the nameplate above his locker changed accordingly. In Williams' case, the “B” should stand for “backup.”
Williams had an OK year until Ryan Shazier got hurt. Then Williams had to play too many snaps and got asked to do too much. That led to Sunday, when Williams morphed into roadkill under the cleats of Leonard Fournette.
Williams talks too much and doesn't accomplish enough. Scrubs need humility. Williams has none. The Steelers have to replace Shazier. They might as well get a whole new tandem at inside 'backer.
• Outside linebackers coach Joey Porter. He's a mascot, not a coach. Bud Dupree's “progress” speaks badly. So does T.J. Watt's invisibility Sunday.
Coaches are supposed to be responsible adults, the hope being that some of that trickles down. But Porter acts like he's still a player. He went onto the field and triggered an altercation during the Steelers' playoff win at Cincinnati two seasons ago. That worked out for the Steelers but was still rash.
James Harrison slept during Porter's position meetings, and Porter was too scared to call him out. Porter has caused unpleasant scenes at high school football games. That's way too many jackpots for a mere position coach.
Will these changes solve the problem? No.
Will they deliver a message? Yes. (The success of that message would depend on how forcefully Tomlin follows it up.)
Plenty of other Steelers are a pain in similar fashion. But you hurt the team if you get rid of Le'Veon Bell.
Mitchell, Williams and Porter are all easily replaced.
But all three will likely be back next season. That's the best bet. The Steelers' biggest problem has always been not realizing there's a problem.
David DeCastro and Ramon Foster have both criticized the Steelers' distracting shenanigans since Sunday's loss. It's too late for that. Those two could have stopped it before it got out of control. It's their locker room, too. It's called “leadership.”
But it's difficult to lead when few want to follow.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).