A lot of people accuse Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin of failing to run a tight enough ship, which allows too many non-football distractions to overshadow the most important part of the process of building and maintaining a locker room.
During his end of season press conference yesterday, he seemed to acknowledge, if not that there is a cultural problem, that he is at least open to the idea of making changes to his approach in the coming year in the effort to create better results. And he held himself accountable for the results that may come, and that have come in the past.
“I accept responsibility and I foster and develop every aspect of our culture, so that’s this game. That’s leadership. You embrace and respect and honor all aspects of that, certainly”, Tomlin said when he was asked to address the topic.
“I think that you’re always taking a step back, and when I’m talking about taking a step back and wallowing in it, I’m not only talking about those that play and those that coach in there. I’m starting with the thumb”.
When he says “I’m starting with the thumb”, of course, he’s referring to himself, emphasizing the importance of self-criticism and self-evaluation. It may not always be obvious, but Tomlin has changed his approach over the years and has made the big decisions in the past, such as moving on from Dick LeBeau and Todd Haley in the past five years.
“You’re not going to routinely do the same things and expect results to change”, he said. “The fact that we’re having this meeting, this press conference today, tells you that that line of thinking is very necessary, for all parties involved and starting with me”.
If there needs to be changes made in terms of how the locker room is policed—sleepyboy James Harrison would appear to agree—then at least Tomlin sounds as though he is willing to take a look at that this offseason and give it some consideration.
“I’m open to it because I’m not open to repeatedly doing this”, he said, referring to holding an end of season press conference just says after the regular season has ended. That is not something that he has had to do for several years, and in fact it has usually come at least two weeks later.
I have generally been one to place the burden of personal responsibility on the players in terms of how they go about handling their business, but there does have to come a point in time in which the coach has to do a better job of stepping in and putting his foot down.
We may be dealing with a locker room full of adults—many of them multi-millionaires—but that doesn’t mean that they can’t behave like children. Not even Bill Belichick could stop Josh Gordon from using drugs under his watch, but the Steelers could certainly tighten things up in their own locker room.