Tim Benz: 10 questions Steelers coach Mike Tomlin should be asked
Here are 10 questions Mike Tomlin should be asked at his Pittsburgh Steelers news conference today in the wake of the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and Antonio Brown’s antics.
I know I’ll be asking a few of them.
1. Mike, you said last week we shouldn’t ask you about things posted on social media. Does that extend to your star receiver daring the club to trade him on Twitter?
I’m sure Tomlin wants the answer to that question to be “yes.” He’s not going to get his wish.
Sorry. This one is coming. That question can’t be preemptively swatted away. I’m sure Tomlin will try to do so. But as always seems to be the case, these are story lines created by his own players on their own social media platforms. They are making us ask these questions. They aren’t narratives those of us in the media are creating on our own.
2. Given how your secondary struggled to cover a diverse passing game last week, how do you plan to handle Tampa Bay’s receivers?
This will probably elicit a, “Tune in!” That’s Tomlin’s go-to response on matchup questions when there is no clear answer. And believe me, with that secondary against Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, yeah, we all should tune in. It could be like a video game.
3. After the game was tied to begin the second half, why couldn’t you run more? Was that by choice? Or were you thinking it wasn’t worth trying?
The Steelers had only 13 running plays, and two were scrambles by Ben Roethlisberger.
I get why they didn’t run much in the first half. The Steelers got down so big they had to run a hurry-up, all-pass approach just to get back in it.
But James Conner’s last two rushes came on the team’s first scoring drive of the third quarter. They went for 9 yards and then a 1-yard scoring run at 7:12.
From there, the last true handoff was to Stevan Ridley at the 2:40 mark of the third. That’s despite four snaps at the 6-yard line and eight within the 20 on their final scoring drive of the game.
4. Why is Ryan Fitzpatrick playing this well in Tampa Bay to start the year?
Speaking of which, it isn’t because of the support of a run game. Tampa’s rushing average is 2.7 yards per carry. That’s the worst in football.
So the Buccaneers have been one dimensional through the air, and he’s still been the best quarterback in football through the first two weeks.
5. Will you consider benching Antonio Brown this week?
The answer will be no. Precedent suggests it should at least be considered, given how Martavis Bryant’s social media activity was deemed detrimental to the team when he responded to a comparison thrown at him about JuJu Smith-Schuster last year.
Yesterday’s dare by Brown to trade him was in response to a tweet about Roethlisberger. So let’s see how Tomlin handles that parallel.
6. Will you put together a more restrictive social media policy?
He should. And the policy should be, “Don’t be on it at all! You guys can’t be trusted.”
That won’t — and frankly, can’t — happen, though. I’m sure the players’ union would step in on that one.
7. What happened to the outside linebackers?
In Cleveland, T.J. Watt was Defensive Player of the Week. And Tomlin insisted Bud Dupree was better than the box score indicated.
I understand that the Chiefs’ offensive line is better than Cleveland’s. But it ain’t the 1995 Cowboys. They played like it Sunday, though. And the only memorable play those two made was when Watt blew up the run play to cause that safety in the second half.
8. Should Jesse James remain your top option at tight end?
The stats suggest yes. He was fantastic Sunday, with five catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Vance McDonald had just three catches for 26 yards after missing the Browns game.
9. Is part of the reason for kicking deep after the last touchdown because of Chris Boswell’s inability to even come close on onside kicks?
As it is, Boswell is in a rut to start 2018. And a good onside kick approach doesn’t appear to be a club in Boswell’s bag right now. I wonder if that played into Tomlin’s thinking.
10. Do you like to jet ski?
Because that’s what your All-Pro running back is doing in Miami instead of practicing for Tampa Bay. Hmm. I wonder if Le’Veon Bell would’ve gotten a carry or two after the halfway point of the third quarter.
But I know, I know. Next man up. Nothing changes just because LeV isn’t here. We’ve got faith in James to do everything we normally do.
Oh, here’s one more.
11. Mike, is Antonio Brown getting the same type of separation he usually gets?
Because on a lot of the throws to him from Roethlisberger that I’ve seen, the answer to that question is … no.