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‘At What Point Should You Not Be Defending This?’: PFF Questions Mike Tomlin’s Stance On Steelers’ Offense


Another week, another largely abysmal offensive performance by the Pittsburgh Steelers, particularly in the passing game.

For the third straight week, Kenny Pickett threw for less than 165 yards, completing just 14-of-27 passes Sunday against the Cleveland Browns for just 106 yards. He missed a couple of throws, wasn’t on the same page with his receivers throughout the game and really didn’t know how to adjust to the Browns running more zone coverage than man coverage, which was unexpected.

The struggles in the passing game really caused the Steelers to bog down in the mud, even while the run game was rather impressive.

All that, and the Steelers scored just 10 points in the 13-10 loss, falling to 6-4 on the season.

For head coach Mike Tomlin, he continued to not be all that concerned after the loss with Pickett and the passing game, stating that he doesn’t really think it can be described as Pickett having a tough time getting going in the last month because the Steelers have run the ball so well.

Yet, for Pro Football Focus’ Sam Monson, it’s getting to that point with Tomlin from an evaluation standpoint where it’s time to start questioning him and how he’s overseeing the offense overall in the Steel City. Though Tomlin very clearly wants to play low-scoring, low-event games and lean on his standout defense to win those types of games, Sunday’s performance showed just how hard it is to rely on that style of play consistently.

“It’s difficult because on the one hand, it’s very difficult big picture to criticize Mike Tomlin, right? The man is a wizard and gets significantly more than in terms of results than he has any business getting given where the team is right now and does year on year, right? Like this idea of never having a losing season, there is something to that,” Monson said, according to video via the PFF Week 11 review show. “So big picture, culture-wise, whatever it is that Tomlin does in that building works overall. On the other hand, we’re going on a year-and-a-half, two years now of a non-functional, bad offense. So at what point should you not be defending this and making some changes that are more radical than bringing the bad coach down from the booth?”

From the national media perspective, it’s hard to criticize Tomlin because of how good he’s been his entire career. As much as people want to downplay the no-losing-seasons thing with Tomlin, it’s huge in today’s NFL. If it were so easy or not all that big of a deal, more and more coaches and teams would achieve it.

Yet, there’s Tomlin, alone.

All that said, the offense is a major issue at this point. It’s not getting better, especially in the passing game. For the fourth straight game, Pickett threw for less than 200 yards. The run game has improved with Matt Canada on the sidelines, but for the 58th consecutive game the Steelers failed to crack 400 yards of total offense. Canada has been the offensive coordinator for 45 of those games.

And counting.

Despite the ugly offensive statistics, Tomlin continues to defend the offense, especially the passing game, stating that the defense dictates things and that the Browns’ defense had a big hand in how Pickett performed Sunday.

When is enough, enough?

This might be how Tomlin wants to play ideally, but it’s not a sustainable, winning style of football, especially against good teams. It was quite telling that rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson looked better Sunday than Pickett did, and that the Browns’ offense had easy answers for its quarterback, while the Steelers’ offense possessed no such thing.

Tomlin is a great coach historically, but his seeming inability to not acknowledge how poor the offense is and consider significant changes is becoming very, very concerning.

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