Pittsburgh Steeler fans are at once the greatest backers in sports and the sorest of losers.
With Thursday night's 13-6 loss (to the Cleveland Browns, of all teams), the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately facet of Steel City fandom has emerged with a vengeance.
Message boards on the websites of local and national news outlets, as well as independently-run fan sites, are almost unanimously calling for head coach Mike Tomlin to lose his job.
Last year everything was rosy, and Tomlin was the man, someone who had a gift for pushing the right buttons.
Now, the battle cry is that he was only riding former coach Bill Cowher's coattails.
Yes, that's how things work in Pittsburgh, especially when it comes to a football season in which a playoff appearance is almost certainly no longer possible.
Hindsight isn't always 20/20.
Fans wanted Cowher fired after a couple of dismal seasons in the late 1990s and early 2000s before he finally was able to capture Number Five.
Had the Rooney family let him go when the public demanded it, it is possible that the "One for the Thumb" would have come sooner than Super Bowl XL, but it's also possible the Steelers would still be looking up at Dallas and San Francisco in the all-time number of rings.
If Steeler fans want someone on the staff to take the fall for this season's failures, they need to concentrate their energies toward one of two possible candidates (or maybe both).
1) Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians
The list of sins is long, but these are a couple of the lowlights.
- During the ill-fated Cleveland game, with time winding down toward halftime, Pittsburgh went into the no-huddle offense for the first time and was able to drive into the red zone in short order. They didn't have quite enough time to score a touchdown, but the team was able to move the ball for the first time in the game. The no-huddle never reappeared.
- Arians seemed content to keep trying to run the ball both last season and early this year with oft-ineffective Willie Parker. Now that a far more viable running back (at least for this offensive line) is in the backfield in Rashard Mendenhall (whose yards-per-carry average is consistently better than his predecessor's), Arians seems unwilling to use him. This is a poor appraisal of your own talent.
2) Director of Operations Kevin Colbert
Follow this link and look at the draft choices since 2000 (the beginning of Colbert's tenure).
The Steelers, historically, don't go out and raid the free agent market. Their supposed claim to fame is building through the draft.
First-round choices are usually pretty easy, but after that, Colbert's record is spotty at best.
How many players taken after the first round are making a positive impact with the team today? How many of them are making positive impacts with other teams?
How many are out of the league?
Genius (or lack thereof) in the draft is measured in later-round value. There has been precious little in 10 drafts.
To date, Tomlin has had two successful seasons versus one that was not. He should still be young enough to learn from the multitude of mistakes he's made since training camp, and set things straight in 2010, or, at the very least, not repeat the same ones.
For better or for worse, Steeler fans are going to have Mike Tomlin leading their team for the foreseeable future. The Rooneys do not fire head coaches after a rough patch like other organizations.
So, unless Tomlin himself decides that he's in over his head and resigns, fans need to use their breath more productively.
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