Every off-season I find myself wondering what head coach Mike Tomlin is really thinking after another eventful year. The Steelers never disappoint in terms of the amount of drama they produce, on and off the field. Of course, you will never get a true answer from Tomlin on what he really thinks about certain situations. Instead it’s the same old coach speak time and time again. What if just once, you could get a coach to say exactly what he’s thinking with no filter? Here would be my top five questions for just that type of scenario:
- What really happened with the Alejandro Villanueva national anthem debacle: It was one of the bigger controversies in the NFL in 2017, and of course the Steelers were smack dab in the middle of it. The team essentially held Villanueva out to dry. They claimed he acted alone by going out on the field without his team mates for the anthem. Was Villanueva really the only one out of 53 players not to realize that the team was planning on staying in the tunnel as we were led to believe? Or did he act on his own in open defiance to the rest of the club because of his military career? Something tells me there is a whole lot more to this story than anyone outside the team knows. Who better to get the full version than Mike Tomlin himself?
- How close was Martavis Bryant to getting cut/traded last season? The first half of the 2017 season got very ugly between the team and Martavis Bryant. His lack of production combined with his constant social media outbursts must have tempted the team to just pull the plug. Mike Tomlin was consistent in his comments that Bryant wouldn’t be traded. That turned out to be true, despite the fact Tomlin had to bench the talented receiver for a game for disciplinary reasons. I’d really like to know if the team ever actually explored a trade, or even contemplated cutting Bryant.
- Who is really in charge of the defense?: There’s been some rumors that Mike Tomlin plays a bigger role in the calling and planning of the defense than anyone would normally expect. Could this explain why the defensive staff remains largely intact despite its major failure over the past two seasons? After all, you can’t fire coaches who are just following your orders. The question would be do you keep Keith Butler around because he’s willing to allow you to run his defense without any resistance? Personally, this is the question I’d be most curious to ask. It sure would explain a lot if it were actually the case.
- How bad was it between Ben Roethlisberger and Todd Haley?: There has been a lot written about the tension between Ben Roethlisberger and his former offensive coordinator. It reportedly got so bad, they felt the need to bring the then quarterback coach Randy Fichtner down from the booth to act as a go between for the two. Of course both sides are downplaying the whole thing now that they have parted ways. Mike, give us the inside scoop on how bad it really was between these two.
- What the hell happened with James Harrison?: It was an entire season of wondering why in the world James Harrison wasn’t playing any snaps at all for this team. We all suspected he still might be the best pass rusher on the team despite all the first round draft picks used at that position. That was only reinforced with Harrison’s game against the Chiefs where he clearly proved he still could contribute. It’s impossible to believe he couldn’t have added something to this defense even in a limited role. Just how bad was he in the locker room? Why did the team drive him to such frustrations by not even attempting to play him? Mike Tomlin has much to answer for about this situation.