Although the defense has been nearly as frequently problematic—or terrible—as has the offense, the latter has more often come under fire when discussing the Pittsburgh Steelers’ issues this season. And when the two are equally bad on the same day, you get a 38-3 smashing like on Sunday, the team’s worst loss in decades.
Head coach Mike Tomlin has long been known the have a heavy hand in the defensive game-planning, and long expected of even more. Earlier this year, outgoing defensive coordinator Keith Butler confirmed what had been reported but unconfirmed, which is that Tomlin called most of the plays during games—even into the late stages of the Dick LeBeau era.
So given the sorry state of the offense right now, Tomlin was asked yesterday during his pre-game press conference whether or not he felt any certain impetus to get more involved in that side of the ball. “No, I’m not running and hiding”, he said, via the team’s website. “I’m highly involved with the offense as well and have been”.
Tomlin has never really ever pretended to be or not be in any particular role on either side of the ball. He generally just avoids the questions when they’re asked, or makes generalities, but this isn’t the first time that he’s ever acknowledged he has a hand in the offense as well.
Because of course he does. Any head coach with any amount of meaningful experience is going to. Now, he’s probably not taking over primary play-calling duties, but he’s certainly always wielded and executed the authority to have specific plays run when he wants them run. That’s his prerogative.
The point is, he’s not deflecting blame away from himself when it comes to the problems on the offense. Even if we want to dump it all on offensive coordinator Matt Canada, whom Tomlin said he remains confident in, he is ultimately the one who hired the man and is responsible for being here, and continuing to be here, and continuing to function in whatever his role is.
It’s been an adventurous season thus far for the Steelers, and that’s primarily because of the shift at the quarterback position after the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger. They named Mitch Trubisky a captain, and then Tomlin benched him at halftime in game four—not without excellent justification.
Now it’s Kenny Pickett’s show. He provided a spark in the second half of that week-four game, but then led 10 consecutive non-scoring drives on Sunday after netting a field goal on his opening drive this past Sunday.
Pickett is the biggest variable on offense, of course, not just for the rest of this season but for an undetermined number of years. But even there, Tomlin is as responsible as any for actually drafting him, so that still falls on him.
Everything always falls on Tomlin, both the good and the bad. That’s what being a head coach is.