The Pittsburgh Steelers finally picked up their first win in Tampa Bay Monday night. After a hectic offseason and 0-1-1 start to the season, head coach Mike Tomlin and Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger were able to right the ship in their 30-27 barn burner. For the moment, Tomlin quieted critics who have questioned his handling of the team and he lives on to see another day. But are his days in Pittsburgh still numbered?
All season long Tomlin and the Steelers have been dealing with a holdout from their All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell. Currently on his second Franchise Tag, Bell has held out in hopes he receives the long-term contract he’s long been waiting for. This chess match between player and front office has engulfed the Steelers season which is currently off to a rocky start at 1-1-1. Highlighted by a sloppy win against the Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Buccaneers and a tie against the Cleveland Browns, the Steelers have been anything but their usual self. While many may attribute the Steelers slow start to the absence of their star running back, other’s believe it is Mike Tomlin who is to blame.
It was 2008 when the Pittsburgh Steelers won their last Super Bowl- Mike Tomlin’s second season as head coach. Ever since then, the Steelers have been a model of consistency, seemingly atop the AFC year after year along with Tom Brady and the invincible Patriots. The Steelers went to the Super Bowl again in 2010 and have gone to the playoffs five of the last seven seasons. Despite the Super Bowl appearances and a very talented roster, Tomlin’s squad has underperformed in recent playoff appearances, and more troubling, they have been plagued by personal issues that are threatening to break the team apart.
The Steelers have had arguably the best offense for the past five seasons with All Pro’s at receiver and running back, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell respectively, and future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger under center. Yet during this span of offensive excellence, the Steelers have only been to one AFC championship, where they were defeated handily by the Patriots two years ago and were upset by the Jaguars in last year’s divisional round.
To make matters worse, it has become evident over the past few years, most notably this year, that Tomlin’s grasp of the locker room might not be that strong. There have been multiple incidents where current and former Steeler players have questioned Tomlins authority. In 2017, star receiver Antonio Brown Facebook lived the post-game speech of the head coach, in which he bashed the Patriots after their divisional round win. Former Steeler standout James Harrison also went on record stating that Bill Belichick was by far a better coach then Tomlin, who he said lacked discipline. And after the Steeler’s week 2 defeat, Antonio Brown went to Twitter asking for a trade and then proceeded to miss practice the next day. All of this in addition to the public frustration expressed by Steelers players over the current Bell holdout.
Big Ben is not getting any younger and has hinted about retirement in years past. Something needs to be done in Pittsburgh while their window is still open. Tied for the last place in the AFC North with tough upcoming matchups against their Divisional Rival Baltimore Ravens and the Atlanta Falcons, the Steelers need to turn things around quickly. A few more losses and Mike Tomlin could be looking for work elsewhere.