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Old 12-01-2009, 06:57 AM   #1
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Default Harris: Adversity will test Tomlin's mettle

Harris: Adversity will test Tomlin's mettle
By John Harris
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The last time Mike Tomlin was faced with similar adversity, he had an entire offseason to seek answers.

This time, he has only five days until the Steelers' next game.

It was following a 31-29 loss to Jacksonville in a wild-card playoff game at Heinz Field two years ago that Tomlin was forced to defend his decision to go for a pair of 2-point conversions that were the difference in a 2-point defeat.

When pressed by reporters, Tomlin said he would do it again, even after the strategy backfired.

It was a tough response from a proud coach at the conclusion of his first year.

The following season the Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII, and all was forgiven about those failed 2-point conversions.

Following Sunday night's 20-17 overtime loss at Baltimore, Tomlin's voice assumed a hardened tone as he pondered his first three-game losing streak.

"We will not go gently. We will unleash hell here in December because we have to. We won't go in a shell. We'll go in attack mode, because that's what's required," Tomlin said of the Steelers' upcoming schedule, which includes Sunday's home game against Oakland, followed by a Thursday night game at Cleveland with two more home games against Green Bay and Baltimore.

So, what have the Steelers been doing so far this season under Tomlin's leadership?

Based on missed assignments, penalties and turnovers, the Steelers have been playing just good enough to lose.

Maybe they need a kick in the rear courtesy of this three-game losing streak to either turn it around, or turn it off until next season.

The Steelers will be favored against Oakland, one of the league's weaker teams. Maybe the prospect of facing the sorry Raiders and Browns back-to-back emboldened Tomlin to predict the Steelers will play with a new sense of urgency.

"Everybody that's around us has the same problems that we have," Tomlin said. "I just acknowledge that we're going to be in attack mode."

Observing how Tomlin handles the Steelers' recent struggles is a groundbreaking event for reporters who have found little fault with his coaching style or the results his style has produced.

Tomlin, however, has lost three consecutive games for the first time. Things have gone so well so quickly that it was easy to take Tomlin's fast success for granted.

Now, the opposite is true as the losses pile up.

"Don't talk to me about moral victories and things of that nature," Tomlin said. "We didn't get the job done."

In his postgame news conference, Tomlin attempted to explain why Ben Roethlisberger was in uniform as the No. 3 quarterback against Baltimore after the Steelers' medical staff ruled Roethlisberger out of the game because of a concussion, but he wasn't very convincing.

"Because, quite frankly, we spent so much time and energy throughout the week preparing both (Roethlisberger) to play and Dennis (Dixon) to play," Tomlin said. "So, if disaster happened and two quarterbacks (Dixon and backup Tyler Palko) went down, we were going to have to put (Roethlisberger) on the field and absolutely hand the ball off every single play. Calculated risk-taking, that's part of it."

Tomlin said he would consider signing a veteran quarterback this week if Roethlisberger isn't ready to play against Oakland.

Tomlin also promised to defuse a potential locker-room split and address his team about why Roethlisberger didn't take a snap against Baltimore.

In a nationally televised interview on NBC, veteran Hines Ward said players were stunned to learn Saturday that Roethlisberger wasn't playing because of a concussion.

Tomlin could face a challenge greater than anything his team has encountered on the field. He's a young coach in charge of a veteran team not accustomed to losing one year after winning the championship.

Tomlin attempted to motivate his players when he said, "We will unleash hell in December." While it's out of character for Tomlin to publicly boast about his team, it's obviously something he felt his players needed to hear.

Still, Tomlin could be playing with fire. While these are the same Steelers, these aren't the same players who won Super Bowl XLIII. Key veterans are a year older, and injuries are mounting.

If the Steelers go 4-0 in December, they'll improve to 10-5 and Tomlin will be the toast of the city again. If the Steelers don't run the table this month, Tomlin could face another offseason of searching for answers to unpleasant questions.

John Harris can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com or 412-481-5432.
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Old 12-01-2009, 02:54 PM   #2
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Default Re: Harris: Adversity will test Tomlin's mettle

He will be searching for more depth on the defense in the draft regardless.
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Old 12-01-2009, 03:05 PM   #3
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Default Re: Harris: Adversity will test Tomlin's mettle

If you look at the stat line in the Chiefs game, a cursory look has you saying to yourself "Well, the Steelers CLEARLY won this game"...but if you look closer, a coupe things jump out...

We tossed two picks.
We lost a fumble.
8 penalties for 81 yards
KR for a TD

All that goes right back to this line from the article:
Based on missed assignments, penalties and turnovers, the Steelers have been playing just good enough to lose.

I don't care how well you play otherwise, if you make those kinds of mistakes, you will lose....
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Old 12-01-2009, 04:45 PM   #4
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Default Re: Harris: Adversity will test Tomlin's mettle

A lot of us including myself on here have been HUGE supporters of Tomlin over that past 2 years, including wanting to sign him to a long term contract. I think he's up to it. He's a winner, and great leaders are at their best in times of crisis. I think he will do everything reasonable to get his players up for the rest of the games this season. If this team fails this year (and by fail I mean by not winning a championship) it will not be the fault of Coach Tomlin.
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Old 12-01-2009, 09:27 PM   #5
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Default Re: Harris: Adversity will test Tomlin's mettle

In past years, I can't remember the Steelers facing such locker-room adversity, but I believe Mike is the perfect coach to settle the differences.
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