Mike Tomlin Continues to Constantly Live In His Fears

Photo credit: Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

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Mike Tomlin has many famous quotes deemed "Tomlin-isms".  Throughout his tenure as Pittsburgh Steelers head coach he has been known for such phrases that are unique to the way in which he communicates messages to the media.  Often, they don't really tell much of a story and are difficult to even understand what exactly Tomlin is saying.  One of his more famous ones, however, is pretty clear.  He states that the Pittsburgh "do not live in their own fears".

This statement meaning that we are going to be aggressive and we will not let other teams dictate the game plan.  Nor will the Steelers allow for the chance of mistakes to dictate the way in which they operate.  As of late, unfortunately, Tomlin is constantly living in his own fears.

The season began fearful by Tomlin refusing to start the best quarterback on the roster.  He was fearful of putting in rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett despite him clearly having a leg up on former starter Mitch Trubisky.  Pickett has done nothing but show in six quarters so far the confidence and talent he has over Trubisky.  Tomlin finally succumbed to the pressure, and Trubisky's poor play, and put Pickett in last week against the Jets.

Yesterday's game against the Buffalo Bills is another perfect example of how Tomlin is letting fear dictate his decisions.  The Steelers were beat down by the Bills to the tune of 38-3.  It is the worst loss for the Steelers since 1989, or my entire lifetime.  

He immediately lacked aggression right out of the gate.  And I actually heard this point made by Colin Dunlap on 93.7 the Fan this morning.  They did an entire segment on Tomlin living in his own fears and I completely agree.  

Dunlap's point was that after the Steelers won the coin toss, they should have elected to receive the opening kickoff.  Here we had Kenny Pickett making his first career start.  On the other side of the ball was MVP candidate, Josh Allen.  They should not have given Allen the ball, and potentially put this team behind the 8-ball already for Pickett's first drive.

Instead, the Steelers chose to kick and Allen did, in fact, drive down the field for a touchdown.  Instead of using Pickett's adrenaline, that he had to be loaded with coming out of the tunnel as the starter for the first time, they gave the ball to Allen.  And why?  Tomlin was afraid of a 3-and-out.  He allowed fear to dictate his very first decision out of the tunnel.  It cost the Steelers seven points and any chance at starting the game with some momentum.

Then came Tomlin's choices in which to kick a field goal versus going for it on 4th down.  Nearing the end of the 1st half, the Steelers were down 24-3.  They were on the Bills 15-yard line, and Kenny Pickett had driven the Steelers 60 yards down the field on just nine plays.  On a 4th and 5, Tomlin elected to kick the field goal, which was missed by usually sure-footed Chris Boswell.

Here's why you go for it in this particular situation.  The Steelers are in a hostile Buffalo environment, down three touchdowns.  Even if you make the field goal, you at best go into halftime down 18 points to one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL.  A 3-score detriment on the road at halftime against the best team in the AFC is insurmountable anyway.  

Instead, you had the opportunity to be down just two touchdowns.  Still most likely insurmountable, but by kicking the field goal Tomlin waved the white flag.  This was a situation where, make it or not, Mike Tomlin was giving up.  And he made this choice, because he wanted the score to look a little bit better.  He was fearful of the final score already.

Fast forward to the 3rd quarter where the Steelers are now down 31-3.  After recovering a Bills fumble, the Steelers were driving again.  They had moved the ball 53 yards downfield, but were facing a 4th and 13.  Instead of letting the offense go for it, Tomlin again chose to bring the field goal unit out and Boswell, again, missed it.  

But why try and bring the deficit to 25 anyway?  Why keep a 4-score game a 4-score game?  Because Tomlin was fearful.  He won't take the necessary risk, or give Pickett a chance at a 4th and 13 because he is living in his fears.  In situations where a successfully made field goal won't change the game, go for it.  

Also, Pickett will face 4th and longs later in his career with the game on the line.  It will happen.  Give him the chance to try and achieve this one.  Allow him this experience.  Instead, Tomlin lived in his fear and tried to keep a 4-score game as it was.

This loss is not entirely on Tomlin.  The defense was terrible and the Bills really are that good.  But Tomlin has to start practicing what he's preaching.  I and many others in this town are tired of the lip service.