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Bouchette: Mike Tomlin Ran Steelers’ Defense In 2017

Keith Butler received plenty of heat this season – myself included – for fielding a defense that faded down the stretch and struggled to communicate throughout the entire season. Perhaps some of that blame should be shifted to Mike Tomlin. From Ed Bouchette’s post-season wrap-up, he drops this interesting nugget. It was Tomlin taking control of the defense on gamedays.

“[Tomlin] called many of the defensive plays from the sideline this season. He also took charge of many of the secondary meetings and those with the entire defense.”

Unfortunately for us, Bouchette doesn’t go into any greater detail about the Tomlin/Butler dynamic. He doesn’t talk about if Tomlin took control at the start of the season or pulled a I’m the captain now, and removed some of those duties from Butler mid-way through.

Regardless, it’s been clear Tomlin’s stamp on the defense has grown since Dick LeBeau has been gone. Pittsburgh plays a lot more Cover 2, blitzes less, and at camp, you see Tomlin even more active with the defense, especially the secondary.

Of course, whenever the media does get the chance to interview Tomlin, fewer chances now it’s the offseason, don’t expect him to be forthright about the role he played. More than ever, he’s kept things close to the vest.

While the Steelers’ defense did finish well in several categories, notably sacks and points allowed, they struggled in others. The red zone defense was abnormally terrible and they allowed far too many chunk plays in the secondary. In the latter, 13 regular season completions of 40+ yards, the highest number given up in two decades. A 14th came in the playoff loss to Jacksonville.

Despite all those struggles, perhaps that is why Tomlin is not making any coaching changes to the defensive side of the ball. It was Tomlin driving that bus for at least parts of the season. Right now, that journey sorta feels like this. 

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