To this point in the 2016 NFL season, the Steelers have been their own worst enemy since a 4-1 start. Injuries and blatantly bad calls by the referees haven’t helped their cause any, but, it’s the coaches and players who have put themselves in this position. Ultimately, it’s those same players and coaches who have to right the ship. Of all the problems that are currently plaguing the Steelers during this three game skid, and this is where the silver lining resides, a lack of talent isn’t one of them. The same talent that had them coming into the season as a Super Bowl favorite still exists, so how did the Steelers get to 4-4 ? How does a team so capable of doing great things, get itself back on track? Mike Tomlin has clearly stated in the past “It’s not about what you’re capable of doing, it’s about what you’re willing to do”. That statement not only applies to the players, but the coaching staff as well. It is a collective effort that has gotten the team in this tailspin and it’s going to take a collective effort to turn it around.
If the Steelers expect to turn their season around, then perhaps the first thing they need to do is to get out of their own way. Most of the on field mistakes seem to be of the above the shoulder variety. What else could explain the highly unacceptable amount of pre-snap penalties, missed assignments, and lack of execution? How else do you justify losing to inferior teams that should be beaten by double digits, other than being mentally unprepared ? The saying goes, “How you practice is how you play”, and if the last three games are any indication, the Steelers aren’t executing plays much in practice either. You can’t play like champions if you don’t practice like champions. Maybe it’s time to treat each week like it’s Super Bowl week. On the coaching side of things, there is nothing wrong with demanding perfection from every player on that field and holding them accountable for their mistakes. How else are the players going to truly understand that it takes more than just showing up for the Steelers to win an NFL game?
Mike Tomlin and his coordinators need to start making adjustments before halftime. They also need to be flexible enough to abandon a game plan that isn’t working, in favor of doing what’s needed to win. Doing what is needed to win though starts during practice. It should definitely be a concern for the coaching staff when two of the game’s best players question how they conduct their practices. Ben Roethlisberger voiced his concerns a few weeks back, about practices being too physical, while LeVeon Bell recently commented on how sloppy they have been as of late. The Steelers are simply too talented of a team to have let themselves fall off to where they are in the playoff picture, and the blame lies equally with the players and coaches alike. In order for the Steelers to get to were they want to be they are going to have to find discipline and focus. With the 7-1 Dallas Cowboys coming to town Sunday afternoon, they are going to have to find those two traits in a hurry.
There’s no doubt that the Steelers have the talent to make a playoff run, but to pull it off, they are going to have to strive for perfection and play with a sense of urgency. Their saving grace is that they play in a wide open AFC North division that is still there for the taking. If the Steelers can beat Dallas, the renaining schedule for them is slightly more favorable than that of the Ravens, who have yet to play Dallas and New England. Having said that, it’s time for the Steelers to begin digging themselves out of the hole they have created for themselves, and it starts with the head coach. Mike Tomlin is one of the best head coaches in the league, but he has to be more than that. Coach Tomlin has to be more demanding and less of the players coach he has been. He has to make sure his team is much more prepared to play than they have been the last three games, and with little margine for error, he has to do it now.