Managing the egos in the Steelers locker room isn’t an easy task. Mike Tomlin has proven he can do it, and that’s why Pittsburgh should stick with him.
There are quite a few coaches in the NFL who are superior tacticians to Mike Tomlin. That’s not the top characteristic required to lead the Pittsburgh Steelers, though. Tomlin has excelled in the Steel City because of how well he manages the wild personalities in his locker room.
Recently, things have gotten a little out of hand. Le’Veon Bell’s holdout clearly riled up lots of his teammates. The discontent in the locker room was obvious when multiple players came out and called their star running back “selfish.” It’s unusual for players to speak out against their peers when they’re trying to get paid.
Things got even worse this week when reports of Antonio Brown’s possible discontent began circulating. First the Pro Bowl wide receiver made a foolish comment on social media suggesting the Steelers should trade him. The news that he didn’t show up for team activities on Monday is even more concerning. It’s clear there is a disconnect between Brown and Tomlin at the moment.
That doesn’t mean it’s time for a regime change in Pittsburgh. Instead, the Steelers brass should be giving Tomlin as much public and private support as they can muster. Not only has he earned that support with over a decade of service to the franchise, he’s also the right guy to help shepherd the Steelers out of this dark time.
We need to establish some perspective. The Steelers are 0-1-1. It’s not as if they’ve begun the campaign by dropping six or eight games. There’s plenty of time for Tomlin to right the ship. This team isn’t that many plays away from being 2-0. The NFL is a league with fine margins, and the Steelers have fallen on the wrong side of that ledge two weeks in a row.
Tomlin also deserves some slack for being forced to play without his offense’s most dynamic weapon. Bell may be selfish, but he’s also one of the most productive running backs in the NFL. With all due respect to James Conner, the offense was never going to function the same without Bell in the lineup.
There’s also the reality that Brown is a combustible personality. All-Pro wide receivers have a well-deserved reputation for being difficult to manage. Brown is no exception to that rule. His latest bout of diva-ish behavior is nothing new. Brown needs to be periodically reigned back in, and Tomlin has proven he’s a coach who can get that done.
The most important reason Tomlin should be retained is that he’s earned the trust of Ben Roethlisberger. The cantankerous quarterback is very set in his ways. He won’t be in any mood to engage with a new coach at this late stage of his career. It’s not an exaggeration to say that firing Tomlin could speed up Roethlisberger’s retirement.
Add all of these reasons up and it’s clear that Tomlin is still the right ringmaster for the “circus” that is the Pittsburgh Steelers. When this veteran roster really turns over it might be time for a new master of ceremonies, but Tomlin deserves the job as long as this core remains intact.