Home > The Tomlin Chronicles > The Tomlin Chronicles – Preseason

The Tomlin Chronicles – Preseason

Mike Tomlin at this stage in his career is still an enigma as head coach of the Steelers. Smart, articulate, and young, his future certainly seems bright, especially with one Super Bowl win already under his belt. Still, opinions seem to vary on the job Mike Tomlin has done thus far and how much credit he really deserves for the Steelers success. Is he just a figurehead, a cheerleader? Is he a good judge of talent? What exactly does he contribute to the team as head coach? This season will be a huge benchmark in evaluating Tomlin I believe with more of “his guys” now in positions to really contribute and coming off an extremely disappointing year as defending Super Bowl champs. When he was hired, talent was already on the team, most of the key coaches (including both coordinators) were already in place. We’ll be analyzing Tomlin’s performance this year. Let’s start with the preseason that just concluded, and more precisely the QB situation.

Yesterday, Tomlin announced that third year QB Dennis Dixon will indeed be the starter on Sunday against the Falcons. All throughout preseason Tomlin did not acknowledge who would be the starter and it really seemed like there was no plan in place to evaluate who indeed should be the starter. Ben started the last two games, bizarrely playing through most of the 1st quarter of the last preseason game against Carolina, even though he wouldn’t be playing for over a month and with the starting QB still undetermined. The heavy favorite (and perhaps unnamed starter) Byron Leftwich was then put in and was injured. The Steelers at this point are down to just two QB’s, Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch, both of which have serious question marks in their ability to actually carry an offense (or even make it through a game).

It could definitely be argued that Tomlin, the coaching staff and front office have done a questionable job in their evaluation and handling of the backup QB position in recent years. For most of Ben’s time in Pittsburgh, Charlie Batch has been the primary backup.  Unfortunately, it’s been clear for a few years that Batch isn’t reliable enough to be the #2 backup due to his recent history of injuries (he somehow broke his wrist in just 3 or 4 plays against the Chiefs last year). Leftwich was re-signed immediately after being let go by the Buccaneers last season. While this may seem like a good move due to Leftwich being familiar with the Steeler playbook, in reality Leftwich isn’t the best fit in Pittsburgh for a number of reasons. He is one of the most immobile QB’s ever to play the game, the Steelers have one of the most questionable O-lines in the league, bad match. Combine that with Leftwich’s history of injuries and his declining play (he was benched after 3 games in Tampa Bay) and suddenly things aren’t looking so good. The speculation after the Steelers drafted Dixon was that he would be used in a role similar to how the Steelers used Randel El in terms of throwing the ball on trick plays. Now he’s the starter, oh how things have changed. The troubling thing is Dixon’s performance and level of talent at the QB position matches up more with the speculation of why he was drafted than with any validity of him being starting QB material. And all this time the front office has seemingly ignored a parade of FA QB’s in recent years (Derek Anderson, Brian Brohm, AJ Feeley, Ryan Fitzpatrick, David Carr, Jon Kitna, Chad Pennington, Patrick Ramsey, the list goes on). Has Tomlin and this team mishandled this situation? I guess we’ll find out over the next four weeks.

On an interesting side note, when asked if Ben would be the starter when he returns from his suspension today on Sirius NFL Radio, Tomlin stated “I’m going to dodge that one and not even be artful about it. I’m not going to back myself in a corner.” This statement raises a couple questions – Is Tomlin just being purposely vague, if so, why? What is to be gained by that? If he’s being serious this raises serious questions on Tomlin’s ability to evaluate QB talent and Pittsburgh’s long term plans with Ben as the QB.

Categories: The Tomlin Chronicles
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