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MIRZA ZUKIC: Amid the blame game, Steelers' Tomlin needs to look in the mirror

by and on September 22, 2013 2:00 AM

So, who’s to blame for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ horrific start to the 2013 season? It’s all anyone seems to want to talk about.

Is it the offense? The defense? More specifically, is it the offensive line? Is it Ben Roethlisberger’s fault? Or is Todd Haley to blame?

With few positives to focus on two weeks into the regular season, frustration is running high in Pittsburgh. If it wasn’t evident enough by Roethlisberger’s on-field reactions in last week’s loss at Cincinnati, a published report this week indicated that receiver Antonio Brown had a heated exchange with Haley over his displeasure with the offense.

The Steelers have yet to win this calendar year. They didn’t play into January last season and are 0-6 since the start of the preseason.

But apparently, Mike Tomlin thinks he’s immune from the blame.

When asked earlier this week at his press conference what he needed to change as a coach, he sternly said, “Nothing.”

Then he continued the answer with some of his well-known rhetoric that further exhibited his stubbornness.

“Nothing in terms of how we approach our overall readiness in an effort to put our best group out there and give ourselves a chance to win,” he continued. “We’re not going to push the panic button. We’re going to continue to work and continue to get better. There was more positivity. There was less negativity. It didn’t show significantly on the scoreboard, and it needs to do that.”

Were we watching the same games?

At the moment, the Steelers are doing anything but giving themselves a chance to win, they’re not getting any better and there’s nothing positive about ranking 31st in the NFL in total offense and 30th in scoring.

It’s time that Tomlin takes a look in the mirror. No, I’m not suggesting he gets the ax, but maybe he needs to reconsider the offensive system he is trying to run.

Sure, Todd Haley is calling the offensive plays, and it’s understandable why fans want his head, but Haley is only implementing a system and a culture Tomlin wants.

Tomlin seems hellbent on using the zone blocking scheme that the Steelers implemented in the offseason, regardless of who’s running the ball. I know I’m no NFL coach, but my understanding of the zone blocking scheme is that it favors quick, shifty running backs.

The Steelers have Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer, neither of whom exactly fit that mold.

LaRod Stephens-Howling is more along the lines of that type of running back, which might explain why he was the lone Pittsburgh running back to do well during the preseason. But he’s lost for the season.

Le’Veon Bell also fits that mold, and common sense says the Steelers switched to the zone blocking scheme to best utilize their second-round draft pick. But he is still injured and the season is quickly passing the Steelers by.

Rather than stubbornly sticking to the zone blocking scheme, Tomlin needs to consider going back to man-to-man blocking.

His young offensive linemen wouldn’t have to think on the fly as much. Their only concerns would be blocking the defender in front of them and picking up a double team from time to time. This would best utilize Redman and Dwyer’s abilities, not a zone blocking scheme.

In other words, rather than trying to force-feed a scheme on a team that doesn’t have the players to run it, Tomlin needs to switch to a system that’s better suited for the players he does have.

Then, you’ll really be giving yourself the best chance to win, Coach.

And how about using rookie wide receiver Markus Wheaton some more? He’s gotten on the field, but he hasn’t been targeted yet.

Tomlin said this week that Wheaton will see an increased workload, but what took so long in the first place?

Tomlin insisted last week the Steelers have the players necessary to be a competitive team.

“I believe honestly that the answers are still in that room,” Tomlin said after the Bengals’ loss.

Not if the coach isn’t willing to adapt.

Mirza Zukic is in his third season covering the Steelers for The Indiana Gazette. Email: moz@indianagazette.net. Twitter: MirzaZuka.



Mirza Zukic is a sports writer that primarily covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and is the Gazette's track and field beat writer.


Teri Enciso is a photographer for The Indiana Gazette.
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