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How the Steelers can fix the Mike Tomlin problem.

3 radical changes Mike Tomlin can make to fix the Steelers offense

About a month ago I wrote an article about how the Steelers have a Mike Tomlin problem, and nothing has changed since then. I realized that while I laid out my complaints with the team in that post, ranging from the lack of sustained success, the poor coaching, and the consistently mediocre results that this team is now accustomed to, I didn’t provide a solution.

While doom and gloom for the sake of it are fine as a fan, I wanted to craft this follow-up post and break down how I would fix the Steelers Tomlin problem. To be clear, there are no easy answers, and while some will claim that a firing in the offseason is justified, it likely won’t lead to instant results.

I will be putting myself in place as the owner of the team at the end of the season. At this point, it is unlikely that any major moves will be made by this team this season, and I’ll assume a record somewhere around 9-8 (per the history of this team). No playoffs, but another winning season that keeps the Tomlin streak alive.

I have a specific plan laid out to get this team back on track. There are some obvious contingencies here, and a few different routes I may take while in charge. All of that will be outlined. And spoiler alert, it won’t be firing Tomlin next offseason. With that all said, here is how I would fix the Steelers Tomlin problem.

What the Steelers should do next offseason.

Mike Tomlin Responds To Criticism For Playing Starters In Third Preseason  Game | The Spun |

Again, let me lay out what my assumption is. Tomlin and the Steelers limped to a winning record, but once again missed the playoffs. This has become the standard season for the Steelers in recent years, and I don’t see a reason to assume that changes given the current state of this roster.

During the year-end review (that I assume happens once the season wraps up), I would sit down with Tomlin and lay out what he will need to do to keep his job. No, I am not firing him after this season, but he will be on a very short leash. He has been allowed to craft the team as he wants, and now it is time for results.

Simply put, the Steelers need to both make the playoffs and win at least one game in the postseason, something that hasn’t happened since 2016. If Tomlin achieves that, he will be reassessed the next offseason, but he will still have a coaching job with the team. If he doesn’t, then he will be fired after the next season concludes.

That may seem harsh, but it is warranted. The Steelers have a rich tradition of success, but that hasn’t been apparent in recent years. Look back to Lovie Smith with the Bears. He was a successful coach but lacked success in the postseason. He was fired after a year that he went 10-6 for those reasons.

The only other change I would want to make is finding an actually competent offensive coordinator. You could look at a name like Darrell Bevell in Miami as a prime candidate, but any offensive-minded coach would do. We can’t replace Matt Canada with another middling coach to lump blame on.

What next offseason will look like for the Steelers.

Beyond a new offensive coordinator, I’m letting Mike Tomlin run this team. Obviously, Omar Khan will be a factor in bringing in new players, but I want Tomlin to craft this team how he wants to. This likely means building around Kenny Pickett some more and hoping for a turnaround.

While I would like to see this team explore the draft for a quarterback, if a playoff win is what is required, the team would be wise to stick with Pickett for another season. I would also be inclined to decline Najee Harris’s fifth-year option, but if Tomlin wants to extend him that is his prerogative.

What I want is for this to truly be Tomlin’s team through and through. That way, there are no excuses if this team once again underwhelms. I don’t think that this is unfair either. Tomlin is a vested coach, the team should be his, and there are plenty of resources for this team to craft another good roster.

If the Steelers do enough to win a playoff game, great. Tomlin sticks around for another season with a new set of criteria. I want sustained success before his seat cools off. A year or two of playoff success and Tomlin will once again be secure.

If Pittsburgh doesn’t win a playoff game next year, then I would thank Tomlin for his time and dismiss him from the team. There are no more excuses anymore. Tomlin needs to get this team back to their winning ways, and if not, I would move forward in a new direction.

What I would do if the Steelers fired Tomlin.

Now, if Tomlin doesn’t get fired because this team improves then there really isn’t much more to say. He did what he needed to do as a coach, and I wouldn’t be involved anymore. Assuming he does get fired though, there would be some sweeping changes.

For starters, I am looking for an offensive mind to lead this team. While this franchise has a rich history of defensive-minded coaches taking the helm, this is an offensive-run league. It is no secret that the consistent top teams have an offensive mind paired with a talented quarterback. I want the Steelers to be like that.

This could be the *insert name of the offensive coordinator we hired before firing Tomlin, or we could snatch a name from the league. From there, I would want the team to add an experienced defensive coordinator. Take a page from Cleveland’s playbook and the impact Jim Schwartz has had. I want my offensive-minded coach to be paired with a savvy defensive coach.

From there, a quick rebuild would need to happen. If this offense was still struggling, it would be safe to say that Pickett isn’t the guy. Now, I have little idea what pick this fantasy team would hold, likely something close to the middle of the draft, so finding a franchise quarterback may not be in the cards. I wouldn’t force my hand like Pittsburgh did with the Pickett selection. If we can land a top guy that’s great, and if we don’t we roll into the next season with Pickett/some other middling veteran and low expectations.

We also go about shedding some weight from this roster to make room for the future. If Cameron Heyward hasn’t retired, he will likely have to be cut/traded. Other names that wouldn’t be around for the long term include Larry Ogunjobi and Harris to name a few.

My expectations would be low for year one without Tomlin, but patience will be required with a new coach. There will likely be some lean years, as we trade comfort for the chance to finally get this franchise back on track. The new coach would have clear expectations and will need to get this team back in the playoffs sooner rather than later, but there would be some accepted poor years.

What would this mean for the Steelers?

Let me be clear, the Steelers don’t suddenly become a Super Bowl competitor by firing Tomlin. I referenced the Smith firing in Chicago from a few seasons ago, and they went into a new era without a quarterback and floundered. They didn’t have a great plan and were impatient with their next round of coaches. You can’t do that in Pittsburgh.

Firing Tomlin and rebuilding the majority of this roster will lead to a few hard years. That means the bottom of the AFC and losing seasons. For a franchise as respected and successful as the Steelers, this will be hard to stomach, but it will be needed. Settling for just enough has set this team back in recent years.

I still contend that the Steelers have a Tomlin issue. While his success as a coach is important to note, he hasn’t kept this team as a viable Super Bowl contender. Sometimes, the game gets away from you, and you are playing like it was ten seasons ago. Unless there is a shift change in how this team plays, the game may truly be past Tomlin and Company.


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