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Steelers-Patriots and the Future

Mike Tomlin decided the Steelers fate long before kickoff on Sunday in the AFC Championship game against the Patriots in Foxboro. Once the game started it was pretty clear early on who was advancing to the Super Bowl to face the Falcons. What was the deciding factor, was it the difference in talent between the two teams? No, it was mostly the difference in coaching and yet another illustration of the importance of coaching in today’s all time high parity in the NFL.

As was pointed out in the last article on here, one of the big keys to the Steelers success is Tomlin not coaching scared. Well, it didn’t happen….Once again. For reasons known only to Tomlin and the coaching staff, the gameplan for both sides of the ball was to play a meek timid game hoping for a miracle win of sorts, something to the tune of 15-14 or 17-14, it’s almost like Tomlin forgot he was playing against a high powered offense, coached by the best head coach in the NFL.

Defensively, with years of evidence to the contrary, Tomlin and Butler thought the Steelers best chance on defense was to once again give up 10 yard cushions and play a soft zone. This is about the worst possible defense a team can play against Brady. The Steelers secondary looked like they had this scheme sprung on them right before the game started as players constantly ran into each other, missed assignments and left receivers wide open all game long. Amazingly but not surprisingly absolutely no adjustments were made at halftime even though the Pats had already rung up 17 points, and likely it would’ve been 21 except for a bad drop by one of the Patriot receivers inside the 10 yard line.

The Steelers offensive decline continued as the team came out flat and conservative with run after run. It’s almost like this team is super predictable! Did Tomlin and Haley think they were playing the Chiefs again? If it worked last week it’s got to work again! Bell was injured but with the gameplan and playcalling it wouldn’t have mattered as the team amassed a grand total of 9 points going into the 4th quarter. The offense continued to putter around with the occasional run call continuing into the fourth quarter. Sammie Coates was targeted way too much and dropped pass after pass. Phil Simms made an interesting comment that Tomlin had told them before the game that he believed Sammie Coates would be a difference maker in the game. Well, I guess Tomlin was right in a way, but probably not in the way he meant it to be.

The special teams once again had a number of blunders

  • Sammie Coates with a horrible return in the 1st half.
  • Bad punt in first half, eliminating a chance to pin Patriots deep in their own territory.
  • Missed extra point in the first half.

What’s amazing about how this game turned out is just how predictable it all unfolded. Special teams blunders? Check. Super conservative and predictable gameplans on both sides of the ball in a big game? Check. Lack of adjustments? Check.

I’m honestly baffled that anyone could still be OK with Mike Tomlin as head coach. It’d be one thing to lose this game, it’s another to lose it before the game even starts because the head coach coaches scared. The Steelers snuck into the AFC Championship game because the AFC is just that weak this year, Miami is mediocre and the Chiefs are supremely overrated with their 12-4 record.

I mentioned that getting this far would be considered a successful season for Tomlin and the Steelers, but watching this game unfold simply paints a depressing picture. 9 straight wins for the Steelers and an AFC Championship appearance will no doubt be considered a win for the Rooney family but any critical thinking fan will see how very unlikely it is that the Steelers win another Super Bowl with Tomlin as head coach. I honestly don’t think the Rooney’s even care.

Going forward the Steelers will likely return in 2017 with largely the same team and perhaps even a similar record and playoff appearance. And likely the same result at some point in the playoffs. Groundhog Day is still a really good film.

Some other observations. The officiating continues to suck massive quantities as the Pats were not flagged at all until the game was all but decided even though there was some pretty clear defensive holding on a number of plays earlier in the game. In addition to that was probably one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen when Ryan Shazier was flagged in the 3rd quarter for “hitting a defenseless receiver”, complete and absolute horseshit and a good illustration of why I probably wouldn’t even care if tomorrow the NFL stopped existing. 10 years ago I never thought I’d feel that way.

Related to the above but the NFL as a whole just sucks now. Chargers moving to L.A., Raiders moving the Las Vegas, greedy owners, incompetent commissioner, mediocre teams, poor head coaches. I think back to some classic conference championship games, like the 49ers vs. the Cowboys, or the Packers vs. the Cowboys and it’s a far cry from the two turds, I mean games, that the NFL showcased today, in fact the entire playoffs this year has been woefully underwhelming. It’s like defense, the fundamentals and coaching are all a thing of the past. This is what the NFL wants? It sure isn’t what I want but maybe I’m in the minority.

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