Tim Benz: Mike Tomlin allowing Steelers to become Bengals |
Breakfast With Benz

Tim Benz: Mike Tomlin allowing Steelers to become Bengals

Tim Benz
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin shakes hands with Bengals coach Marvin Lewis after their game Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

Here’s the statement regarding wide receiver Antonio Brown that was delivered after Pittsburgh Steelers practice on Wednesday.

“There was discipline involved for his missed meeting, for Monday. Some of the other things we talked about extensively. He’ll speak for himself on some of those things. Really, our focus is on preparing to win this game on Monday night,” said Steelers head coach Marvin Lew …

Oops. My bad. I meant, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Sorry. The two have become increasingly similar over the years. It’s getting hard to distinguish one from the other.

Think that’s unfair? Well, consider this.

Over the last 10 years, one of those two coaches has piloted a very talented but combustible AFC North team to great regular-season success and numerous division titles. But along the way, arrests, suspension and other negative incidents from within the locker room have dominated headlines as much as football games themselves. And his winning percentage has been offset by playoff upsets and multiple postseason losses at home.

The other coach is Marvin Lewis.

Yes. The Steelers are becoming the Bengals. And around these parts, no greater insult can be levied.

The reality is, though, that Pittsburgh’s formerly steadfast football franchise had long been viewed as a model for consistency and calm in the often rocky waters of the NFL.

Now, it’s a tumultuous punching bag.

You can’t go far on the internet without stumbling across one national outlet or another taking shots at the Steelers for the disarray that has set in around the team. Many of those volleys have been aimed at Tomlin.

Those who wanted to defend Tomlin on this matter used to be able to swat away critics by saying, “The off-field distractions haven’t impacted the winning.”

Well, since the trip to the Super Bowl at the end of the 2010 season, the Steelers have enjoyed playoff victories in just two of those seven campaigns. So maybe the sideshow element has more of an eroding effect than the club’s .651 regular-season winning percentage during that span infers.

Tomlin had a chance to finally draw a line in the sand when it came player behavior this week. He could’ve suspended Antonio Brown for skipping a team meeting Monday.

After daring the team to trade him on Twitter earlier that morning.

After yelling at offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner on the sideline and stomping out of the locker room, leaving his teammates to answer questions on his behalf.

After threatening to break a reporter’s jaw two weeks ago.

All that behavior together is worthy of a suspension. Brown is acting like he is bigger than the team. But Tomlin didn’t do that, preferring some sort of undisclosed, alleged discipline.

Brown is addressing the matter for the first time Thursday. He normally talks to media only on Fridays. Maybe that was his punishment. He has to talk to us twice in a week.

That’s a severe punishment, to be sure. It’s not quite at a level suggesting that Tomlin is trying to force his players to be accountable for their actions, though, is it?

For their part, other players at the Steelers practice facility didn’t seem put off by Brown’s absence.

“He’s the best in the world,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said. “When you’re the best in the world, you want to participate, you want to win football games, and we’re all a little frustrated because we’re not winning now.”

Maurkice Pouncey went on to say that he’s “totally fine” with a lack of suspension for Brown.

“We don’t know the things that are going on in his life,” Pouncey said. “He talked to the people he needed to talk to about why he wasn’t here, and he confirmed things. And we move on as a team.”

The Steelers have been doing a lot of that the last few years. Moving on from Le’Veon Bell’s contract dispute and suspensions. Moving on from Martavis Bryant’s suspensions and trade. Moving on from Joey Porter’s arrest and James Harrison’s midseason release. Moving on from LeGarrette Blount leaving the sideline early.

At this rate, they’ll be “moving on” to some other controversy next year.

In 2014, Bill Belichick famously recalibrated a bumpy start in New England with his “We’re on to Cincinnati” speech.

My concern is that the Steelers are turning into Cincinnati.

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