Steelers Nation is hoping that 2019 starts better than 2018 ended.
A contract dispute led to running back Le’Veon Bell skipping the entire season. The team benched wide receiver Antonio Brown for the last game of the season after a team conflict and, even though they won that game, the still failed to make the playoffs. When Brown began using Twitter as his sounding board to air his grievances about the team and QB Ben Roethlisberger, the team has faced criticism from all levels and fans screamed that head coach Mike Tomlin had lost the team.
Even former Steelers’ defensive star James Harrison said that Tomlin was too soft on players. But as always, the Steelers deal with it. They traded Brown to the Raiders for a third and fifth round pick and they let Bell walk, after which he ended up signing with the Jets as a free agent.
Despite the drams, could these moves be addition through subtraction?
We won’t know for a little while, but what Steelers’ fans do know is that they live by the “next man up” philosophy. So the ball, spotlight and pressure goes to JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Connor, both of who stepped up big time during the disappointing 2018-2019 season.
But it all starts with the head coach, and Tomlin didn’t shy away from the cameras or the drama which engulfed his team over the past 12 months.
“Certainly I think reflection is a part of this, particularly when you have failure,” said Tomlin. “And I consider last year a failure. Reflection and the analysis of how we operate and how I function within that is just a natural point of procedure.”
“We were a 9-6-1 football team last year. We all need to look into the mirror at what we do and how we do it, starting with me. That is the approach I am taking.”
It’s an approach that Tomlin has consistently taken, and it’s one that has led him to becoming the only coach in Pittsburgh Steelers’ history to never have a losing season. It’s one that also garners the ridiculous criticism that he’s not a great coach.
You are going to be tested, we are going to be tested. Sometimes you are going to fail, but you better pass enough of them.”- Mike Tomlin He’s never had a losing season yet he’s still constantly criticized. When will Tomlin be given respect he deserves? https://t.co/2rPKCjrx45
But Tomlin stays steady in his approach, exemplifying this in his recent interaction with the media where he started off by stating his confidence and belief in his future Hall of Fame QB, Roethlisberger.
“I have no problem with his play or his leadership,” stated Coach Tomlin. “You know him — you don’t do what he has done, at the level that he has done it, for the time in which he’s done it, without responding appropriately to challenges and adversity. That’s just in his DNA.”
When asked about the situations involving Bell and Brown, Tomlin touched on relationships and the need for players who want to be in Pittsburgh for the right reasons.
“Relationships run their course, and the fact that neither one of them are here speaks to that.
“We can’t do this with hostages, man. We need volunteers,” continued the Steelers’ coach. “We need good players, good guys who want to be here and if guys can’t check those boxes, it’s probably best for all parties involved to go our separate ways.”
And go their separate ways they did.
The team has signed a few veterans since their All-Pro player departures, like WR Donte Moncrief and CB Steven Nelson. And while they haven’t signed any big names the team is loaded with 10 picks this year at their disposal for the 2019 NFL Draft. They’ve found jewels in the draft, including former sixth round pick AB, so fans are hoping they do the same this April.
“I think we’re going to develop that for 2019 and I don’t want to assume anything as we sit here,” said Tomlin to Yahoo Sports. “We’re in the process of acquiring talent via free agency and the draft and blending and developing that talent, and whatever our roles were in 2018, I don’t want to assume anything as it relates to 2019.”