Mike Tomlin is known as a defensive head coach. A DBs coach in Tampa, a DC in Minnesota, someone who has his thumb on the scale of this defense. Regardless of who the actual playcaller is, Tomlin or Keith Butler, Tomlin’s stamp on this defense is perfectly clear. But remember Tomlin grew up playing on offense, a wide receiver at William & Mary, and he’s the head coach of the whole team, not just the defense. Meaning he’ll make his voice heard on offense too.
Talking with reporters during his weekly Tuesday presser, Tomlin was asked how much of a role he has in offensive playcalling.
“Certainly,” he said when asked if he suggests playcalls. “I do more than suggest [at times]. Just to be clear.”
Promoted from QBs coach this past offseason, Matt Canada is in his first year as an NFL OC and only his second year in the NFL, spending most of his college career bouncing around the college game. The Steelers’ offense has undergone a transition this season, rebuilding its O-line and bringing back an old-school identity after being such a pass-heavy offense for so many years under Ben Roethlisberger.
That’s led to predictable struggles, especially in the red zone, but Canada has made tweaks and improvements to this offense. Opening scripts are more successful with Pittsburgh having four first-drive TDs while the team’s motion rate has spiked. According to ESPN’s Seth Walder, the team’s “motion at the snap” rate is eighth in football.
Overdue for a team motion update!
First number is motion at snap, second one is all pre-snap motion.
— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) November 23, 2021
Specifically, Tomlin was asked if he had a role in red zone and goal line playcalling on Najee Harris’ one-yard leap Sunday night.
“I won’t peel back the curtain and talk about a division of labor. I’m ultimately responsible for everything that we do. While at the same time, I want to give credit to all parties involved, coaches and players. We’re a collective.”
Red zone inefficiency has been a problem for Pittsburgh this season. On the year, they have found the end zone 58% of the time, 17th in the league. But even that number can be a bit deceiving. Against the Chargers, they finished the game 4-7 but began it 1-3. On one goal-to-go drive, they needed five plays and a fourth down DPI to finally punch the ball in.
Under Randy Fichtner in 2020, the Steelers were eighth in red zone play at 66%. If the Steelers want to make a run down the stretch, they’re going to need points, which means ending drives with touchdowns, not field goals.