Tomlin says Steelers are 'team in transition'
PHOENIX — James Harrison, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, Willie Colon, Hines Ward, James Farrior and Aaron Smith departed the Steelers in the last 13 months — a huge chunk of their multiple Super Bowl teams gone.
To coach Mike Tomlin, those departures mean the Steelers are in transition, changing from one configuration to another.
Even if general manager Kevin Colbert said recently they weren't.
During the AFC coaches media gathering Tuesday at the annual NFL meetings, Tomlin said, “We're a team in transition as we always are. Players are ascending, players are descending. We're acquiring players and losing players. I think that's part of this time of year. ... Change is a part of football.”
Both Tomlin and Colbert agree they're not altering expectations. Asked about all the talk that the Steelers are on the decline following an 8-8 season, Tomlin said with a bit of defiance, “That's March talk. See you at stadiums in the fall.”
But during some February talk at the NFL Scouting Combine, Colbert took umbrage at characterizing the Steelers as being in transition, saying that suggests they would settle for less-than-championship play while they alter their cast of characters.
“I don't want to say transition because that means that you're going to accept anything less than a Super Bowl in trying to get back,” Colbert said.
No matter what word characterizes the state of the team, Tomlin knows what the 2013 Steelers must do differently from their 8-8 season: win close games.
“Because we weren't good enough. I don't hide from that. I embrace that,” Tomlin said when asked about the Steelers' five losses by 3 points. “Good teams win close games. Teams that aren't lose those games. Obviously, we did a year ago. Our goal and our charge moving forward is to be on the other side of that.”
A productive, content Ben Roethlisberger and a healthy, contributing Troy Polamalu could help achieve that.
Tomlin doesn't believe Roethlisberger returned prematurely from the shoulder and chest injuries that put him out for three midseason games and appeared to limit the quality and velocity of his throwing the rest of the season. But Tomlin acknowledged the quarterback's play wasn't what the Steelers needed as they lost three in a row to fall out of playoff contention after Roethlisberger returned.
“I think in the moment he was ready and prepared to play. We just didn't get what we were looking for,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin got what he was looking for early on during Todd Haley's first season as offensive coordinator but not late in the season as the running game disappeared and Roethlisberger didn't play up to his usual level. As a result, the head coach is looking for offensive improvement all around in Year 2, especially after the Steelers add the running back he is pushing for — and hard.
“I think that being familiar and continuing to gain understanding is what's going to make us successful not only offensively but as a team,” Tomlin said of the Haley-Roethlisberger relationship. “I think that process is unfolding. Both guys are geared towards winning, and they're unselfish from that standpoint. I'm excited about watching it continue to grow.”
As for Polamalu, who missed much of last season with a torn calf, Tomlin gave a brief but telling answer when asked if the star safety should alter his offseason workout regimen.
“I want him to be ready. I think he wants to be ready like everyone,” Tomlin said. “I am not going to make more out of that than what it is.”
Especially when he has a team that's in transition. Or isn't.
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 re-sign WR Heyward-Bey to 1-year deal
- Steelers notebook: Team seek ease on West Coast travel
- Tomlin expects Steelers offense to grow
- Harrison writes he is deciding between signing with Steelers or Titans
- Steelers notebook: Harrison return complicated by LeBeau, Titans
- Steelers notebook: Safety Mitchell could move to replace Polamalu
- Agent: Polamalu undecided whether to play in 2015
- Rooney not expecting much more out of free agency for Steelers
- Steelers notebook: Cornerback need will wait until draft
- Steelers re-sign LB Harrison to 2-year deal