Tomlin: Some Steelers about to lose jobs
No more motivational slogans from coach Mike Tomlin. No more
talk of his Pittsburgh Steelers redeeming themselves for past
mistakes. No more grandiose promises to unleash havoc on the NFL
for the rest of the season.
Tomlin’s response to the Super Bowl champions’ latest improbable
loss and the franchise’s longest losing streak since a five-game
slide in 2003? He’s taking out an eraser and wiping away names.
A starter gone here, a backup moving up there. A rookie starts,
a veteran goes to the bench.
The Steelers traditionally don’t make panicky personnel moves or
bench a player because of a bad game or two. But what Tomlin calls
“a pattern of behavior that’s unacceptable” during a four-game
slump will result in lineup changes Thursday in Cleveland.
“I assure you there are going to be some,” Tomlin said Monday,
calling the Steelers “a very average team … and our recent
record might indicate that’s a kind assessment.”
Rookie cornerback Joe Burnett is expected to start for the
oft-beaten William Gay, who sustained a concussion late in the
Steelers’ can-you-believe-it 27-24 loss to the Raiders on Sunday.
Gay might not play in Cleveland.
Another rookie cornerback, Keenan Lewis, plus defensive end
Ziggy Hood and wide receiver Mike Wallace, also might earn elevated
status for the Browns (1-11). Wallace is expected to start if Hines
Ward (hamstring) can’t go, which seems likely given the short
“We can’t stay status quo in terms of how we’re approaching
this and expect the pattern of behavior or outcome to change,”
Tomlin said. “That’s unrealistic. That’s hoping. This is not a
Tomlin, who hasn’t been tested like this previously during his
three seasons in Pittsburgh, stayed patient during an 18-12 loss to
Cincinnati and twin overtime defeats to the Chiefs and Ravens.
Losing three leads in the fourth quarter against the lowly Raiders
(4-8) made him lose that, and a lot more.
Tomlin was as close to agitated as he gets in public on Monday,
suggesting longevity and loyalty don’t count for nearly as much
when a team is losing like the Steelers are.
“Nothing stays the same in this game,” Tomlin said. “Players
are ascending, players are descending. People catch up with
schemes, schemes evolve. Playing and coaching, this thing is
A defense that was easily the NFL’s best a year ago squandered
three leads in the final eight-plus minutes Sunday as Bruce
Gradkowski became the first Raiders quarterback in 30 years to
throw three TD passes in the fourth quarter. It was the fifth time
in six losses the Steelers’ defense couldn’t hold a lead in the
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes said “the party was getting ready
to get started” when Ward caught an 11-yard TD pass in the final
two minutes that put Pittsburgh ahead 24-20, but the defense didn’t
“That’s how we felt, knowing that the offense went down and did
our job,” Holmes said. “We left everything to the defense. A
couple of mishaps here and there, and they (the Raiders) won the
A couple of mishaps against the Chiefs and Raiders, two teams
that figured to give them little trouble, and the Steelers are 6-6
instead of being at least 8-4. No wonder Tomlin is concerned about
his team’s confidence, which was shaken when the special teams
recently gave up four kickoff return touchdowns in five games.
“You’ve got to acknowledge the potential this can be kind of a
shaken group,” Tomlin said. “We’ve swallowed a lot. I’m going to
be looking very closely at these men … in terms of who
legitimately is mentally tough and who can stand the test of
No matter what happens down the stretch, the Steelers are
expected to undergo more changes than usual during the offseason.
There could be coaching staff moves – none was made following the
Super Bowl win – and more departing veterans than usual,
particularly from a defense loaded with starters in their 30s.
It hasn’t helped that star safety Tory Polamalu has missed seven
games and most of two others with a pair of left knee injuries. The
Steelers are 2-5 when he doesn’t start, and he’s unlikely to play
“I’m, not going to make excuses,” Tomlin said. “I think we’re
capable of playing winning football with or without Troy. Are we
different? Yes, because Troy’s a unique individual. Maybe the
ceiling is different but the floor, the level of expectation, is