Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is 49 years old, and while that’s certainly not old, he’s not as young as his 23-year-old wide receiver Chase Claypool. Why does this matter?
In a recent media session Claypool said that the Steelers should play music at practice and otherwise make the experience “more fun.”
Tomlin was asked about Claypool’s request and essentially said Chase should worry about playing wideout and he (Tomlin) would handle practice. Tomlin evoked the phrase “division of labor.”
Mike Tomlin on Chase Claypool's suggestion they should play music and make practice more fun:
"Claypool plays wide out and I'll let him do that. I'll formulate the practice approach and I think that division of labor is appropriate."
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) November 30, 2021
To be fair, Claypool did say he would leave it up to Tomlin as “he’s been doing this a long time.” So it’s really much ado about nothing. But it was funny.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith didn’t find it funny and believes things are serious in Pittsburgh right now.
Tomlin became the Steelers head coach in 2007. In 14 seasons he’s guided the team to the playoffs nine times. They’ve been to two Super Bowls, winning one, and three conference championship games. The Steelers have never had a losing season under Tomlin.
However, they currently sit at 5-5-1 with a negative point differential and were embarrassed 41-10 by their division rivals the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday, Nov. 28.
When Tomlin was hired he was 34 years old, and one of the advantages of his youth was his ability to relate to the players. He wasn’t some crotchety old man yelling obscenities who didn’t understand his guys.
As an aside, many in the media saw that as a detriment, but while Tomlin could relate to his guys it was also very clear that he was in charge. The results over 14 seasons prove that.
Art Rooney II and family know what they have in Tomlin and inked him to a three year extension earlier this year, which will keep the head coach in place through 2024.
That would be 17 seasons at the end of the deal. That’s incredible job security in a league that colloquially stands for Not For Long.
But as time goes on, Tomlin will get farther away in age from his players. That’s not a prerequisite for poor performance, but maybe doing the same job for so long is?
Maybe Tomlin doesn’t like the distraction of music at practice, though many NFL teams do it. Perhaps the 5-5-1 Steelers should be focused on more important things than the latest jams and having fun. This is a job after all.
However the environment that players and coaches comes to work in needs to be one that is conducive to sustained peak performance. One playoff berth in the past three seasons and possibly his first losing record this season are not good signs.
There is no need to sound the alarm bells or panic in Pittsburgh, Tomlin has earned that over his tenure. But, if he is to remain the head man for the Steelers and win at the rate he wants to, it might be time to do a bit of a refresh.
That doesn’t necessarily mean play music. But it does mean maybe it’s time to rethink approaches and philosophies.
More news from our partners
More news from our partners: