Home > The Tomlin Chronicles > The Tomlin Chronicles – First Quarter of the 2010 Season

The Tomlin Chronicles – First Quarter of the 2010 Season

With no Big Ben behind center to start the season things didn’t look so good for the Steelers. Many people (myself included) thought a 2-2 start would be a best-case scenario, but Tomlin has managed to rally the troops to an impressive 3-1 start in Ben’s absence. Tomlin should be credited for getting his team mentally prepared, especially on defense, to win without Ben. The tenacity and overall great play of the defense has a lot to do with Tomlin keeping that side of the ball focused. A team, regardless of talent, that isn’t focused can and will lose to anyone (just look at last year). Even with the great start, however, there are still some areas of concern when it comes to Tomlin, in my honest opinion. Let’s take a ganders.

– Tomlin’s gameclock management still needs some work. In Week 1 against the Falcons, Tomlin, for some reason, called a TO with 2:05 left in a tied game with the Steelers on their 39 yard line with the ball. This is simply a bad move regardless of whether the Steelers scored on the drive or were forced to punt (which the team did). Because in either scenario, calling a TO was simply not necessary and only leaves more time on the clock for the Falcons to potentially tie or win the game in the waning minutes or seconds of the game. Considering how many late leads the Steelers gave up last season, this made the decision to use a TO all the stranger.

– In Week 2 against the Titans, Tomlin and Arians teamed up for some of the most illogical and asinine playcalling and gameplanning that I’ve seen in some time. I covered this earlier on here, but let’s do a review. With the Steelers leading 13-3 to start the 2nd half, Arians (with Tomlin’s approval and possible input) put the following head-scratcher together –

– There were no passes on either 1st or 2nd down the entire 2nd half, they were all run plays with Mendenhall getting most of the carries, Redman carried on a few plays.

– That resulted in the following third down plays –

– 3rd and 11 -Pass incomplete
– 3rd and 15 – Batch sacked
– 3rd and 8 – 3 yard completion to Mendenhall
– 3rd and 5 – Batch sacked
– 3rd and 11 – -2 yard completion to Miller
– 3rd and 4 – Pass incomplete

– No matter how you look at this playcalling or try to frame the argument (Steelers offense was being conservative to avoid mistakes, holding onto lead, eating up clock, etc.) the overall playcalling made absolutely no sense in the 2nd half of this game. None whatsoever. If the safe and smart thing to do, as some argued, was to play it conservatively then why were the Steelers throwing the ball on EVERY third down play? Isn’t that kind of dangerous, especially when you consider who the QB is (Batch), how many yards were needed, the game being on the road and that the Titans defense is expecting the pass? I’d say so! I’d go as far as to say it’s totally illogical and almost as if the Steelers coaching staff were on auto-pilot throughout the 2nd half of this game. On the other hand, if the Steelers were interested in picking up first downs in the 2nd half (indicated by throwing on every 3rd down) then why not at least try a few passes on 1st or 2nd down when the Titans defense might not expect it(ie, making it easier for your offense)? Instead the Steelers arguably took the most dangerous route, putting themselves in predictable situations on virtually every down, which increases the risk of a turnover while heavily downgrading any chance of a first down (the Steelers had two the entire 2nd half). Everyone already has an opinion on offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, the fact that Tomlin was fine with this kind of playcalling, though, is pretty frightening. The Steelers did end up winning the game but not before another nail-biter of an ending where the Steelers had 7 takeaways and should’ve probably won the game by 20 points.

– Why did Dennis Dixon get the start over Charlie Batch? Why am I seeing Larry Foote on the field when the game is still on the line? Is Keyaron Fox injured? Are the rookie LB’s that looked so impressive in preseason just “not ready”? Why was Trai Essex starting over Doug Legursky to start the season? Why is Antwaan Randel El returning punts? Because he’s a “veteran”? Mike Tomlin, ever since he’s been in Pittsburgh, seems to take a “don’t rock the boat” type approach when it comes to personnel moves. That can be a prudent and safe route to take but in the NFL, it can also lead to losses when you don’t have your best players on the field at all times. Is Tomlin just not a good evaluator of talent at a few positions? I don’t know. Is Tomlin simply afraid to unseat certain vets on the team? Who knows? As Tomlin continues to get more experience as a head coach let’s hope for the sake of the team’s success that he starts to make some better personnel moves. He hasn’t been horrible in this area but some of his decisions (or lack thereof) are starting to be a hindrance in certain areas of the team.

– I was really impressed with Tomlin’s decision to rotate defensive players and the O-line early on in the season in hot weather. That’s the kind of pro-active coaching I like from my head coach. Hopefully that’ll be a sign of things to come from Tomlin. Personally, I think the O-line should stay intact as much as possible throughout games the rest of the way so they can gel as a unit but early on (and in hot weather) I think it was a really smart move by Tomlin and company. I’m sure we’ll see a continual rotation of the D-line and LB’s (and maybe even some secondary players like Will Allen) as the season continues. I like it.

– Overall, it’s hard to look at the Steelers record right now without Ben and not be impressed with the job Tomlin has done thus far in the 2010 campaign. As noted above, there are still areas of concern, but if the Steelers can continue to win, those areas will generally be overlooked by fans (and why not?). I would be more ecstatic right now if not for the Ravens loss. It’s one thing to lose a game, but it was the manner in which the Steelers lost the game that should have fans a little concerned, in the team, the coaching staff and maybe Tomlin in particular. The team was totally unfocused and unprepared throughout the game, combine that with the last-second loss and it’s a virtual carbon copy of last year. Just a coincidence? Last year’s 4th quarter collapses was blamed on the absence of Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith. Both played against the Ravens. Both are great players. Same exact outcome. It should be apparent at this point that coaching COULD very well be a problem on this team. It all starts with the head coach. Another thing to consider going forward, the Steelers are 3-1, but last season the Steelers started 6-2 before finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs. Let’s hope the Ravens game (and it’s 4th quarter breakdown) isn’t a start of a repeat of 2009. These next few games could be huge in ultimately determining where the Steelers are headed this year. Let’s hope Tomlin can get his team mentally prepared for each game.

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Categories: The Tomlin Chronicles
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