To Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin: The Answer to The Question Is NO

Bryan HollisterAnalyst IDecember 11, 2009

CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 10: Head Coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers stands on the sidelines during the game against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 10, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Not a chance.

That sentence is what should have come out of Steelers' head coach Mike Tomlin when asked, following what offensive stars Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger deemed an "embarrassing" loss to the absolutely horrid Cleveland Browns, if Pittsburgh was a playoff team right now.

Embarrassing is too generous. Utterly disgusting and unacceptable only begins to touch it.

I understand that this is a long-standing division rivalry; I've watched more than one or two Steelers-Browns contests in my day. Unfortunately, I was relegated to having to follow the game via "live look-ins" over the internet, thanks to whatever marketing agreement was reached between the NFL and the NFL Network to cut out a certain number of fans by putting Thursday night games on a cable channel that not everyone has access to.

It was bad enough actually seeing the horrible play of the Steelers while watching the "look-ins"; the on-line "broadcaster" telling us what we had just seen happen, as if we had just arrived from Planet Zoomba where they don't have American Football, not even on satellite, only added to the discomfort and my displeasure at not being able to watch the game on the HD TV I just spend almost a grand on. 

But I digress...

Back to my point, this game was supposed to be the beginning of an end-run by the Steelers to make the playoffs, probably as a sixth seed, but possibly as a fifth, and take a shot at defending their title. You see, these Cleveland Browns are NOT the same Browns who have given the Steelers fits all these years. THESE Cleveland Browns had won a single game all season; even the Detroit Lions had more wins going into this week than the Browns did.

Didn't matter. Pittsburgh forgot to show up for the game.

After starting the season 6-2, and looking like they were going to take command of their division, the Steelers have dropped five straight, and effectively played themselves right out of contention for the postseason.

Or more correctly, not played themselves out of contention.

Big Ben keeps getting blamed from time to time for holding onto the ball too long, but dammit, the offensive line should know how he plays by now, and they should be adjusting to it. It's not like he just started doing his impression of Fran Tarkenton this year; he's been playing like that since high school.

I know Troy Polamalu is hurt, but there comes a point in the season where someone, ANYONE , has to step up and fill that slot. Tyrone Carter and Ryan Mundy have failed to do so, and it is killing the defensive secondary.

Instead of forcing turnovers, the Steelers are coughing the ball up. The same team that had a +4 turnover ratio last year is sitting at -5 through this week.

Of course, I can't pick on the defense too much. They did hold Brady Quinn to 90 yards—yes, 90 yards—passing. Of course, the 171 yards on the ground that they gave up wasn't exactly indicative of the solid defensive front that Pittsburgh has built its reputation around.

But when you play with fire, you eventually get burned. And the Steelers have been letting teams stay close all year; even their opening weekend game against Tennessee was a nail-biter, needing an extra period just to get a field goal and walk away with a win that shouldn't have been so difficult.

I know it's exciting and all, guys, but some of us have heart and heartburn conditions. So closing out the games a little earlier would be greatly appreciated.

Not that it matters much at this point anyway. Barring an absolute collapse by five teams in front of them, any dreams of postseason play will have to wait until next season. Their best hope is for everyone in front of them to lose out so they can slip in on a tie breaker over Tennessee, who also has a 6-7 record.  

Due to their "victory" over the Titans in Week 1, they own the first tiebreaker.

Other than that, Pittsburgh needs to spend the rest of this season figuring out how not to end up here next season. It might behoove the staff to figure out how to build an offensive line around Big Ben's propensity to run around in the backfield.

Or possibly bolster their defensive backfield a bit so that the loss of one key player doesn't make it seem like no one else is back there.

I don't know what they need to do, but whatever it is, they have a little time. The season doesn't start until September 2010.