- the Steelers time-honored commitment to a deep bull pen
- and Mike Tomlin’s credo that “The Standard is the Standard”
Vindicating Their Head Coach…. On Paper
The Steelers entered the Ravens game without their:
- Franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger
- Playmaker extraordinaire strong safety, Troy Polamalu
- Budding wide receiver Antonio Brown
- But this is Pittsburgh. Injures are never an excuse.
How, you might ask?
The essence of Tomlin’s motto of “The Standard is the Standard” is this:
- Being in the NFL means already puts you in the top half of the top one percent of the world’s football players. Therefore you’re capable of a winning performance. Period.
Necessary, But Not Sufficient
…That, ladies and gentleman, normally amounts to a winning performance.
Why then are the now Steelers down two games to the Ravens?
- Mike Wallace could have held on to the ball instead of gift-wrapping the Raven’s chance to get right back into the game
- The special teams could have brought its A-Game against one of the league’s most dangerous punt returners
- The offensive line could have started consistently winning at the line of scrimmage before the third quarter
- Coaches could have settled on Jonathan Dwyer, who ran better than Rashard Mendenhall
While no one in Steelers Nation should find the defense at fault, a turnover also could have been game changing.
Be careful to note however, that the Steelers injury situation did nothing to prevent a winning performance in any of the situations above.
Yes, these mishaps were all necessary for the Steelers to lose the game, but none of them were sufficient.
“Players Win Games, Coaches Lose Games”
Like most of its brethren, that cliché gets thrown around too much as a catch all to highlight that coaches hold ultimate responsible for performance.
- When it comes to the Steelers lose to the Ravens, however, the cliché takes on literal truth
No one, outside or inside of Pittsburgh, let alone Leftwich himself, thought him capable of such a play.
Yet Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports that Leftwich injured his shoulder when he landed in the end zone. Worse, Leftwich injured two ribs when sacked two possessions later.
Leftwich struggled all night and the offense struggled with him. While ESPN Deporte’s commentators mentioned nothing about Leftwich having an injury, NBC’s camera’s kept focusing in on Leftwich nursing various parts of his body.
At one point, Charlie Batch even warmed.
Yet Leftwich remained in the game. At half time Mike Tomlin proclaimed Leftwich “fine”
- He wasn’t.
But Byron Leftwich wasn’t up to the task.
- And it’s not up to players’ responsibility to make those decisions anyway.
On Behind the Steel Curtain Ivan Cole offered:
It is also clear that Tomlin is loath to intervene in these cases and I think there is an argument to be made for that position even if you risk losing in the short term, which is what occurred in each instance.Cole is referring to Tomlin’s decision to stick with a wounded Ben Roethlsiberger at San Francisco last year. While I deeply respect my friend and colleague, I view it differently.
Allowing a quarterback to embrace his modern day gladiator role when he’s delivering is one thing. Allow one to stubbornly cling to hero impulses when injuries impact performance is another.
There’s a reason why the Steelers have the NFL’s deepest depth chart at quarterback:
- That’s to give Mike Tomlin options when injury strikes this vitally important position.
The same thing was true of Byron Leftwich vs. the Ravens.
Time will tell if it costs the Steelers another division title.
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