Mike Tomlin is taking a lot of heat for the Steelers’ struggles following their loss to the Houston Texans. In many ways, that is justified. Pittsburgh has failed to embrace many modern NFL philosophies and seems behind the eight-ball. But is the entire offensive philosophy that Tomlin employs outdated? Marcus Spears joined Stephen A. Smith on First Take and believes just that.
Spears put Tomlin and the Steelers in the same bucket as Bill Belichick and the Patriots, citing Tomlin’s offensive philosophy and lack of explosive plays as a core problem that Pittsburgh faces now. Whether it is Matt Canada or something else, Spears thinks this all starts at the top.
“What we’re watching right now is Mike Tomlin and Bill Belichick not go to where the NFL is,” Spears said. “Right, it’s always hard to talk about coaches like this because they’ve had so much success, and we hang our hat on that…you got to score 40 to win football games now. You can no longer go out on the field and stop people and think that you’re going to score 20 and run the ball 40 times and win football games. You just don’t win like that anymore. Both coaches have not acknowledged that anymore or at any point. It doesn’t mean they can’t coach, they just haven’t acknowledged the fact that we have to be explosive. Down in and down out, you have to be explosive.”
It’s no secret that Tomlin and the Steelers have embraced running the football as an identity. He talks about that fact each week, but is it embraced to the point where it is detrimental? There’s an argument to be made that Pittsburgh does not build out their passing game first, and as a result, the group will continue to struggle in the modern NFL.
The formula for Tomlin worked after the bye last year, but it is never conducive to long runs in the postseason. Even despite the impressive stats and a 7-2 finish to end last season, Pittsburgh still did not score that many points. The team ranked 3rd in the NFL in EPA per carry last year. Yes, that means the team was one of the best-rushing teams in the NFL on an efficiency basis per rush. That’s a revelation to most people. It didn’t lead to that many points throughout the season. Other metrics paint that picture and do so in a crystal clear manner. They ran many plays but didn’t have good red zone efficiency on the ground or through the air.
Pittsburgh has found more explosive plays this year but has no down-to-down consistency. This year’s mess goes far beyond the strategy of building this team, but at its core, there’s an actual argument that Tomlin has to adjust his offensive strategy.