Tim Benz: For Mike Tomlin, it’s not about New Year’s resolutions, it’s about next year’s resolutions
It’s New Year’s resolution season. Unfortunately or Mike Tomlin and his Pittsburgh Steelers, that means Next Year’s resolution season.
With Sunday’s elimination of the Black and Gold — barring a nearly inconceivable tie between the Colts and Titans tonight — this year’s campaign finished about a month earlier than what the Steelers wanted.
It’s time for Tomlin to pledge some resolutions toward making 2019 better.
Yes. Tomlin will be back to do precisely that, whether an increasingly vocal and steadily growing portion of the fanbase thinks that’s a good idea or not.
So here are some things Tomlin should vow to do this offseason:
Get a replay guy
Other teams have one. The Penguins won two Stanley Cups in part because of their guy , Andy Saucier.
Whatever Tomlin is doing on his own just isn’t working. Ever since we made it known how much Tomlin struggled with challenges — a streak that has reached 10 failures in a row — he’s gotten gun-shy.
To a degree, I don’t blame him. We’ve seen some baffling decisions go against the Steelers via replay.
Because of Tomlin’s lack of faith in the process — an irony given his seat on the NFL Competition Committee — he appears unwilling to challenge plays he should. For instance, flashback to the Sean Davis hit on Michael Thomas in New Orleans.
It was ruled an incompletion. It looked like a fumble to me. It was at least worthy of risking a timeout to take a second look.
Speaking of timeouts …
Start using timeouts on defense late in close games
It’s better to control the clock when you don’t have the ball than when you do have it. Because, on offense, you are in greater control of the clock in the first place.
One of Tomlin’s major credos is coaching by his gut and not coaching by some sort of “book.”
I get that. It sounds very rah-rah “football coachy” to say something like that. And it’s a good idea to avoid living your football existence by stats in a binder.
I’ve gotta ask, though: Is “I’m not coaching by the book” code for “I’m coaching by my own book?”
Certain circumstances dictate past results can’t be guaranteed to work out again.
You know, like trusting a defense, which had been playing well against a bad quarterback in Blake Bortles on a bad day, not to crack against a decent quarterback in Derek Carr on a good day.
Oh, and speaking of that …
Drop “we don’t live in our fears”
At least when it comes to talking about the defense. We all know those words aren’t worth the ink used on the quote sheet.
Tomlin is afraid of his defense and, obviously, has coached that way at times.
Feeling the need to extend that possession in New Orleans with the fake punt is an example. Tomlin did that so he wouldn’t give the ball back to the Saints, or, if the play didn’t work, it would — in his logic — at least give them less room on the field and less time to possess the ball on their way to the next score. That way, the Steelers would have enough time for a game-ending sequence to re-tie the score.
Such an approach indicates a lack of faith in the defense.
Find some playmakers on defense
Tomlin griped endlessly about the team’s turnover ratio this year. He should have. At minus-10, it was 28th in the NFL to start the weekend.
So if he can’t tell his quarterback to take fewer risks and cut down on the interceptions — which he can’t, and won’t, do — then his defensive players need to get a few more back on their own.
Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have invested a lot of money, draft stock, coaching equity and free agency efforts in the likes of Artie Burns, Bud Dupree, Stephon Tuitt, Vince Williams, Jon Bostic and Morgan Burnett. If they don’t make enough “splash plays” on defense, it’s time to swap them out for a few more players who can.
Stop losing to lesser teams on the road
Tomlin defenders love to pretend this hallmark of his teams is a nonissue. A fluke. An exaggeration of typical difficulties most teams have playing away from home.
They’d be better off trying to deny the earth is round or that dinosaurs existed.
If this year’s defeats at Oakland and Denver — and the season-opening tie at Cleveland before the Browns changed the coach and QB — didn’t prove Tomlin’s teams play down to the level of competition on the road, I don’t know what will.
Last year one of my resolutions was to avoid writing a New Year’s resolution column . I broke it. Much as I expect Tomlin break all of these.