View Full Version : Tomlin: Stilted offense was Steelers’ ‘Achilles’ heel’

12-31-2012, 10:44 PM
Tomlin: Stilted offense was Steelers’ ‘Achilles’ heel’

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Steelers coach Mike Tomlin speaks to the media during his final news conference of the season on Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, on the South Side.

By Alan Robinson
Published: Monday, December 31, 2012

On a day coach Mike Tomlin spent considerable time discussing the myriad injuries that helped wreck the Steelers‘ once-promising season, he disclosed a previously unrevealed malady.

Tomlin didn‘t blame the offense‘s second-half stagnation for short-circuiting the season, but he said Monday that the lack of progress was significant as the Steelers lost five of their last seven. Not coincidentally, those were three games Ben Roethlisberger missed with a major injury, and the four in which he struggled to return to playing the way he did pre-injury.

“I thought we started out on the right foot in terms of dominating time of possession and converting third downs,” Tomlin said. “We did what was required to possess the ball and win football games. Obviously we didn‘t ascend in the second half of the season in those areas. It was an Achilles‘ heel for us.”

Or, perhaps more specifically, it was a shoulder and a rib that effectively doomed a season in which the Steelers appeared to be peaking, with four straight wins, before the quarterback was hurt Nov. 12 against Kansas City.

At the time. Roethlisberger was on pace for his best season statistically; afterward, his numbers dipped.

“I felt like early on in the year, in the Oakland game (Sept. 23), we were coming on the sidelines and looking at the (scouting) pictures and it was like, ‘We‘ve got everything we want,‘ ” wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said Monday. “We were moving the ball so well, and I felt like we were growing. All of a sudden, Ben gets hurt and that slows the progression. … Once Ben got back in, we were just trying to recapture what we had early on in the year, but it just didn‘t take place.”

Because the offense was so effective early on, Cotchery doesn‘t doubt Haley and Roethlisberger can work well together.

“I think this year guys did a good job of welcoming change and just trying to get better in the offense, and I think it will be better going forward,” Cotchery said.

Cotchery said the potential was there for much more.

“You look at the Oakland game, you look at the Tennessee game, games pretty much that you had in control, and for some reason they slipped away; the Browns game,” Cotchery said. “You (beat yourself) up the entire night, the entire offseason looking back at those games.”

And now they‘ll have nine months to do it.


12-31-2012, 10:49 PM
The offense was very much the Steelers' "Achilles' Heel" in the second half of the season....

I just didn't realize that this was news....

12-31-2012, 11:32 PM
Steelers Notebook: Mike Tomlin: Steelers didn't finish games
By Dale Grdnic | CBSSports.com
December 31, 2012 3:36 pm ET


Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said Monday during his final press conference that the club's performance against the Cleveland Browns wouldn't necessarily boost the 2013 franchise, he acknowledged that certain individuals could build on their respective strong performances for next season.

Tomlin didn't provide evaluations for specific players, but he had overall comments on the team and then individual looks at the offense, defense and special teams as separate units.

"There's a certain level of disappointment that comes with sitting here, even right now, having the season-ending press conference,'' Tomlin said.

"Those are never our intentions. Obviously, we desire to be a team that is consistently in the battle for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

"That didn't transpire this year for a number of reasons. Primarily, we didn't do enough, particularly in the closing moments of close football games. ... We've been in eight games of three points or less, and we were 3-5 in those games. That will produce an 8-8 record that will have you on the outside looking in.

The good teams, the dominant teams,'' Tomlin added, "aren't necessarily dominant inside stadiums. But they are dominant largely in moments, and they do what is required to get out of stadiums with victories. We didn't do that consistently enough. We just didn't.''

Tomlin believed the Steelers started strongly enough on offense, dominating the time of possession and converting third downs, generally just possessing the ball and doing what it takes to win football games.

"Obviously, we were not ascending over the second half of the season in regard to some of those areas,'' Tomlin said. "And that was an Achilles heel for us.''

Injuries and growing pains with a new coordinator also hampered the offense, but Tomlin didn't believe those factors prohibited the Steelers from winning.

"Defensively, I thought we didn't start out very well, particularly situationally, getting off on third downs, end-of-the-half- and end-of-the-game-type things,'' Tomlin said. "I thought we grew into those roles and improved over the course of the season. It was really a good defense in the latter portions this season.''

There were not many significant plays, primarily forced turnovers, by the defense from the outset. The same could be said about the special teams.

"I thought we had some positive things, particularly in the kickoff return,'' Tomlin said. "I thought we were in the top 5-10 for the better portions of the season. Shaun Suisham, of course, was rock-solid all season. I thought our punt-return game had potential, but it never really developed.

"We had some explosion plays called back due to penalties, penalties that we are responsible for, and Antonio Brown was limited with his ankle for the better part of the second half of the season. (So), we're an 8-8 team on the outside looking in. We don't feel great about it.

"And, as a matter of fact, we dislike it,'' Tomlin added. "And we're committed to doing what's required from us to move forward to ensure that we're not having similar conversations in the future.''

Injury Updates: QB Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder, rib), DE Brett Keisel (right knee MCL sprain), DE Cameron Heyward (rib fracture), CB Keenan Lewis (right knee MCL sprain), OT Mike Adams (ankle), CB Curtis Brown (ankle) and CB Ike Taylor (foot) will rehab their injuries, but no surgery is required.

Also, OT Kelvin Beachum (concussion) and OG David DeCastro (severe stinger) were injured against the Browns, but no long-term effects were expected. And FS Ryan Clark suffered a severe contusion to his left quad, and he was hospitalized overnight as a precaution. Tomlin said he spoke with him Monday morning after he was released, and Clark was resting comfortably at his home.

Players who had surgery, like TE Heath Miller (right knee MCL and ACL reconstruction), OT Marcus Gilbert (tendon damage in his right foot), CB DeMarcus Van Dyke (shoulder) and RB Baron Batch (plate inserted in broken right arm) are doing well, but no timetable is set for their rehab. Gilbert is on crutches and in a boot, as the surgery revealed a congenital problem that needs to be corrected in the other foot as well in a couple years.

Final Notes: The Steelers had a team meeting Monday, while exit interviews begin New Year's Day and run through the week. ... OL coach Sean Kugler has left to watch his son play for Purdue in its bowl game, but Tomlin said he will not take any Steelers assistants to his new post as head coach at UTEP. ... The Steelers have the 17th pick in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. ... Tomlin said it's more important to get the right guy than to rush to hire an OL coach.

Follow the Steelers all season on Twitter at @CBSSteelers.

01-01-2013, 02:33 AM
A disappointing year for sure, but I don't see him accepting any of the blame. No improvements over the second HALF of the season?? That's 8 games if I have to take off my socks to count. Seems like the HC would be able to correct this disturbing trend. Yes play the injury card, but is there really preparedness for the next man up? i would like to see tomlin retained but he needs vast improvements himself.

01-02-2013, 10:53 PM
Harris: Steelers offense must excel in 2013

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Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) and the Steelers’ offense finished No. 14 in passing, No. 20 in total offense and No. 22 in scoring.

By John Harris
Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Let‘s assume, for argument‘s sake, that the Steelers‘ defense created seven to 10 more turnovers for their offense this year.

Why do we automatically assume things would be any different?

That players and coaches would be preparing for a playoff game instead of saying their goodbyes and preparing for the offseason?

After all, we‘re talking about a Steelers attack that finished No. 14 in passing offense, No. 20 in total offense and No. 22 in scoring offense under franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Isn‘t it enough that the Steelers‘ defense led the NFL in pass defense and total defense for the second consecutive season? Or that the defense also finished No. 2 in run defense and No. 7 in scoring defense in 2012?

I find it ironic that both of the Steelers voted to the Pro Bowl this year play offense and that none of their defensive teammates was invited to Hawaii. How is that possible?

How about the offensive players doing their jobs better and scoring more points instead of the defense always being expected to bail out the offense?

To get to the bottom of why the Steelers didn‘t qualify for the playoffs for the second time since 2009, it‘s important to dig deeper in search of the truth.

Did you know that the Steelers have never led the league in passing offense or total offense — or even finished among the top five — in any of Roethlisberger‘s nine seasons? Or that the Steelers defense didn‘t rank lower than No. 4 in total defense in any of their three most recent Super Bowl seasons (2005, 2008 and 2010)?

Even if you toss out this year‘s inconsistent offensive performance due to Roethlisberger‘s rib and shoulder injuries, Big Ben‘s body of work reveals similar inconsistencies.

In the three seasons that Roethlisberger led his team to the Super Bowl, the Steelers never finished higher than No. 14 in passing offense or total offense. In a league consisting of 32 teams, that‘s barely above average.

With all the talk about Roethlisberger‘s alleged rift with first-year offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the offense‘s numbers in his one season under Haley aren‘t that different from its average rankings in five seasons with Bruce Arians (14.4 passing defense, 14.4 total defense) and three seasons with Ken Whisenhunt (20.3 passing defense, 12.7 total defense).

Since 2004, the Steelers enjoyed their two highest rankings in net passing yards under Arians and Whisenhunt (2006 and ‘09). They didn‘t qualify for the playoffs in either season.

A year ago, the Steelers earned a playoff berth when the offense finished No. 10 in passing offense and No. 12 in total offense.

Forget the defense not generating enough turnovers for the offense in 2012. The unit deserves much better than that.

Roethlisberger has played on five teams that led the league in total defense. Imagine how many Super Bowls Tom Brady could win if he played with a dominant defense.

It‘s probably asking too much to expect the Steelers to lead the league in total defense in 2013 for a third consecutive season.

However, it isn‘t asking too much to expect the offense to play better.


01-02-2013, 11:13 PM
What good is possessing the ball and racking up yards and 1st downs when you can't score points?

01-03-2013, 01:23 AM
Good think Tomlin doesn't read this forum....Otherwise he would have blamed the defense for the dismal season....

01-05-2013, 02:31 PM
Steelers offense, defense went opposite directions

January 1, 2013:
By Ed Bouchette / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

To put the 2012 season in capsule form, the Steelers offense went one way, the defense went another and the results came in as an 8-8 standstill.

That's how Mike Tomlin explained it Monday in its simplest terms. He also noted for the second time in a week that a 3-5 record in their eight three-point games contributed.

"The good teams, the dominant teams, aren't necessarily dominant inside stadiums," Tomlin said. "But they are dominant largely in moments, and they do what is required to get out of stadiums with victories. We didn't do that consistently enough."

The new offense under Todd Haley "started off on the right foot in terms of dominating time of possession and converting third downs."

"We did what was required in those areas to possess the ball and win football games."

That occurred as the Steelers jumped to a 6-3 record and the offense was on pace to set team records, especially passing, and led the league in third-down conversions. Although Tomlin did not connect the dots, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger then was injured and missed 31/2 games. Little came together on offense after that.

"Obviously we didn't ascend in the second half of the season in those areas," Tomlin said. "It was an Achilles' heel for us."

The opposite happened on defense, which started slow and finished fast.

"Defensively, I thought we didn't start out very well, particularly in situational football and getting off on third downs, and the end of the half and end of the game type of things," Tomlin said.

"I thought we grew into those roles and improved over the course of the season. It was a really good defense in the latter portions of the season, particularly in those settings. I think the statistics show that. But again, not enough significant plays in those moments at the early portion of the season that produced wins, such as Tennessee and others."

RB situation hurt

Tomlin acknowledged that not having a No. 1, go-to running back did not help the offense.

"I'm sure that would be a fair assessment," he said. "But there are also several reasons why that didn't occur, and just general ineffectiveness being one of them."

Four of their five halfbacks were injured at different points in the season to where three of them started and three shared the duties. Their former lead back, Rashard Mendenhall, battled through ACL and achilles injuries and was suspended for one game by Tomlin. He had only 51 carries for 182 yards and no touchdowns.

Jonathan Dwyer led the team with 623 yards, the lowest rushing total to lead them since Merrill Hoge had 610 in 1991.

LeBeau to return

While Tomlin did not state it, Dick LeBeau will return as defensive coordinator. Haley likely will be back as offensive coordinator, although Tomlin offered him a much cooler assessment.

"I think everybody is aware that I'm happy with the work of Dick LeBeau," Tomlin said. "He's a special guy, a special man and a special coach."

And Haley's performance?

"It was about 8-8, like all of us. I'm a black-and-white kind of a guy. He was an 8-8 coordinator. I was an 8-8 head coach. I don't think that's what either of us desire to be."

But he did add that "We're going to proceed with that understanding and with a mentality toward being better and maximizing our talents here to the best of our capabilities."

Tomlin also acknowledged that there were the expected growing pains in teaching and learning a new offense.

"Certainly, but not that it is unexpected and not that it is an excuse, much like the injuries. I acknowledge that growing pains are a part of transition but I didn't believe that it would be significant enough to prevent us from winning and I still don't. It's not an excuse, much like the injuries."

Series of injuries

The Steelers season was a series of one injury after another. Starters lost 78 games to injuries, and four more left the game Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

Tomlin at least had good news on two of them. Brett Keisel and Keenan Lewis each have damage to medial collateral ligaments, but neither will need surgery.

He confirmed that Kelvin Beachum sustained a concussion in the game. David DeCastro had a severe stinger. Cameron Heyward "probably" has a rib fracture.

Ryan Clark spent Sunday night in the hospital as a precautionary measure with a severe left thigh contusion. He was released Monday morning and is fine.

Quick hits

• Tomlin said he has no timetable in hiring a line coach to replace Sean Kugler, who became head coach at UTEP. He also said he will assess whether to hire another special teams coach to replace fired Al Everest or stick with one.

• The Steelers will draft 17th in the first round and swap places with Dallas every subsequent round. Both finished 8-8 but the Steelers get the first-round edge on the Cowboys based on their opponents' weaker won-lost percentage (.465).