View Full Version : Harris: Tomlin backed down from promise

12-10-2009, 11:43 PM
Harris: Tomlin backed down from promise
By John Harris
Friday, December 11, 2009

CLEVELAND Win or lose, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin should have attended Thursday night's news conference with his mouth taped shut.

After seemingly giving up on the season following Sunday's loss to Oakland when he flippantly cast aside his team's fading playoff chances, Tomlin promised lineup changes entering last night's game against the Cleveland Browns.

At halftime of a 13-6 loss, the Steelers trailed by 10 points. There were no changes in the starting lineup. It looked like the same team that fell apart in the fourth quarter four days earlier as Cleveland dominated both sides of the ball.

What movie will Tomlin decide to quote from this time for inspiration, "Alvin and the Chipmunks?"

Maybe he'll promise to start five new offensive linemen based on what transpired against Cleveland.

Seriously, the biggest change was sure-handed Mewelde Moore replacing Stefan Logan as the kickoff returner. Moore quickly made an impact when he fumbled on two returns.

No coach should ever publicly give up on his team when there's still a mathematical chance of reaching the playoffs, no matter how slight. It's Tomlin's responsibility to keep his players going, even when the well appears dry.

What kind of message does that send to his veterans who won two Super Bowls in the last five years?

"As a veteran, I always feel like it's better in these type of situations to go with the veteran guy that's been there before," defensive co-captain James Farrior said of Tomlin's broken promise to make changes on defense.

To say that Tomlin jumped the gun in writing off the season is stating the case mildly.

What if former coach Bill Cowher had taken that approach when the Steelers were 7-5 and struggling late during the 2005 season? No way the Steelers would have won Super Bowl XL, much less qualified for the postseason.

"He would say things, but he would never say anything that drastic," former Steelers center Chukky Okobi said when comparing Tomlin and Cowher.

Okobi played under Cowher and was released in Tomlin's first season. He said he thinks Tomlin is a good coach but that the Steelers' recent struggles may be showing him in a new light.

"If Cowher did say something that drastic, he would do it," Okobi said. "If he doesn't, his integrity is damaged."

Tomlin's strategy backfired. The Steelers played last night's first half as if they took Tomlin's words literally.

As the game progressed, the Browns took control of the line of scrimmage, running the ball right at the Steelers and harassing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as if they knew the snap count.

When the Steelers had the ball, they tried to finesse the Browns with passes. It was quite a role reversal from recent Steelers-Browns games, when the Steelers offense did whatever it pleased.

Faced with third-and-short on back-to-back possessions to open the game, Roethlisberger, who lined up in the shotgun, was sacked both times.

Tomlin's rise in the coaching ranks is a fascinating one.

He received his first coaching position right out of college in 1995 as an assistant under current West Virginia coach Bill Stewart at Virginia Military Institute.

In 2007, he became coach of the Steelers.

Tomlin has been the golden child, so to speak, enjoying fabulous peaks and precious few valleys so far.

There's a first time for everything.

Let's see how it works out for him.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.

12-10-2009, 11:48 PM
Who really thought Tomlin would change the lineup? lol Like, seriously? This is something new for Tomlin. He's never lost like this before. Its going to be interesting to see how turns around.

12-10-2009, 11:54 PM
He's never lost like this before. Its going to be interesting to see how turns around.

He has neither the experience or skills to recover from this. He said so with his eyes. :chuckle:

He has blown his credibility with the league ("unleash hell" Wow!! :rofl:) and with the team ("big shake up").