James Harrison went on tv last week and made some statements that got Steeler Nation fired up. The quote that “Bill Belichick is a better coach than Mike Tomlin” got most of the buzz both nationally and in Pittsburgh. I mean honestly is that really a shocking statement to anyone? The real story came later on in an interview with Colin Cowherd where Harrison claimed that players on defense were getting multiple play calls from the sideline. Harrison went on to say there were situations where “half the defense were playing something, and the other half were playing something else”. Uh…. what?? This is an NFL football team that can’t even decide who’s calling the plays on defense?? No wonder there are times where this defense looks absolutely lost.
I have been very vocal about the fact that Keith Butler has no business being a defensive coordinator in this league. He’s a decent position coach who is way over his head at this level. This defense has consistently looked ill prepared and out schemed since the day he took over. The problem now seems to be compounded by Mike Tomlin getting more and more involved in the play calling of the defense. It has apparently created a situation where inexplicably two different calls end up going out at the same time. Everyone who watches this team closely saw something just wasn’t right with this defense. So many times players looked lost and confused. There was a breakdown in the way this defense was run, we just didn’t know it was this bad….. until James Harrison explained it to us.
Is it any surprise that none of the young players on defense have developed into stars over the past few years despite all the high draft picks used on that side of the ball? Imagine being an inexperienced player and getting a mixed calls from the sidelines during a game. Sean Davis immediately comes to mind as a player who could have been greatly affected by this. Not only is he about to play his third position in three years because of the indecision of the coaching staff. He may very well have been dealing with mixed play calls his entire career. What makes this situation even worse is players “football IQ” has been questioned by both the media and coaching staff on this team. How in the world can a players “football IQ” be judged with the mess going on around them?
This is an issue where management needs to step in. The Pittsburgh Steelers need a defensive coordinator with some clout, not just a Tomlin puppet. Perhaps the only reason Butler is still around is that ownership thought it would send a bad message if they moved on from both coordinators in one off-season. What sends a worse message is keeping a coordinator who couldn’t hold a one dimensional team like the Jaguars under fifty points in a playoff game. In any case we are in for at least one more season of the Butler/Tomlin show. The hope is at the very least they have ironed out who will be calling the plays this Fall. That would be a giant step in the right direction.