James Harrison spent the majority of his career playing under Mike Tomlin, who isn’t all that much other than he currently is. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-time sack leader didn’t even get a chance to be a full-time starter until Tomlin’s first season with the team in 2007.
It’s hard to say how much of his opinion is tainted by the manner in which things ended between them, but Harrison hasn’t been shy about his criticism of his former coach since he retired—actually since he was released, since he even said things at that time.
He was recently on Undisputed with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe in which he discussed, as always, a number of issues pertaining to the Steelers, and a lot of that focused on Tomlin. He did concede that Tomlin “is a good coach”, but he went on from there.
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) January 15, 2019
“I think he’s a good head coach. I wouldn’t put him as great because I feel like a great coach takes good players and does great things with them”, he said. “I think he has great players over there and he hasn’t done good things with hasn’t done good things with them this year. So with the roster and the guys that he’s had over there, I think they should have been a little further along”.
There is a lot of merit to what he says. It’s obvious that the Steelers have not achieved their ultimate goal since 2008. While they have won a lot of games since then, ‘the standard is the standard’ and in Pittsburgh, any season that doesn’t end hoisting the Lombardi is considered to be in vain.
Still, this is a team that won 13 games in 2017, that advanced to the AFC Championship Game in 2016. They lost to the eventual Super Bowl champions in 2016 and in 2015.
They obviously underperformed this year, however, there is no getting around that, regardless of how close they were in nearly all of their losses.
The biggest reason that they felt short in so many close games this past season was on the defense, who blew a number of leads in the fourth quarter. Harrison believes that Tomlin bears the ultimate responsibility for the team’s failure to come up in the tight moments.
“The more he has to do with what goes on around there, I feel like the further the team is getting away from the goal of a Super Bowl”, he said, a sentiment that I know many here agree with. “I feel like the more he gets his people in place and the more he gets the people that he wants there, I feel like they’re getting further away from their goal. That’s just my feeling”.
While a lot of people have lost a lot of respect for Harrison because of how he handled the end of his career, I also think he is becoming something of a spirit animal lately, voicing many of the same frustrations that many fans are feeling and even seemingly confirming some of their beliefs.