5 Nearly-Extinguished Questions, In Honor of the Pro Bowl

img_2278Photo via Steelers.com  Tomlin is, apparently, not impressed by my questions…

I am going to be stealing questions from wherever I can find them this week, because it doesn’t seem  appropriate to try very hard, the week of the Pro Bowl. Feel free to leave equally lame answers…

1. Jim Wexell’s latest column for Steel City Insider has the following subtitle: “Do the Steelers need a disciplinarian? Not as much as they need an inside linebacker.” He makes the point that it isn’t unusual for star players to get special treatment. He makes many other interesting points, too, so read it if you can get past the paywall. In the meantime, agree or disagree?

2. Wexell also noted this tweet by one of the writers of Football Outsiders, as follows:


Wexell doesn’t buy into a conspiracy theory, more that there is an unconscious bias on the part of the refs, assuming that the Pats are doing things correctly. Your take?

Cold Old Steelers Fan helpfully wrote most of the rest of this column. So thanks, COSF, and here goes:

3. This is a great one – really more appropriate for Full Smoulder: “How will the Ben/Fitchner era look? Will Ben be calling all the plays or will Fitchner? Will there be conflict?”

4. And next: “Will Tomlin continue with the role of defensive play calling? Is that a good idea?” Interesting question, especially in light of the Haley hire in Cleveland apparently signalling the end of the Hue Jackson offensive play-calling era there.

Of course, it assumes a level of involvement in the defense that I’m not sure is quite correct. So bonus sub-question—how much do you think Tomlin was involved in the actual defensive play-calling this past season?

And finally, I’ll contribute:

5. If you could change one coaching decision (can be an in-game decision, or an overall philosophy decision), what would it be, and how would you expect it to affect the final outcome?


  • 1. Agree, but I think MT & Co. will need to tighten up a bit on the discipline nonetheless.
    2. I wouldn’t say conspiracy, but there does seem to be a pro-Patriots bias in penalties and instant replays this year. Refs are supposed to be impartial, but they’re also human.
    3. I think Fichtner will call the plays, but given his familiarity with what Ben likes, there won’t be much conflict.
    4. Good question. We have no idea how much he was involved, so any answer would be rampant speculation.
    5. I’d have put a spy on Bortles when we played man in the divisional round, which well could’ve stopped two Jags drives where he picked up big chunks with his legs on third and long, resulting in an entirely different outcome.


  • 1) I agree that it isn’t unusual for star players to get special treatment. The difficulty is in context and degree. Despite the best (and incomplete) efforts of journalists, we do not know what really goes on in the locker room. Based upon my observations (and biases), MT & Co. could at least tighten up on the appearance of having a more disciplined team. Seems that team up north that shall not be named can doit successfully.

    2) While I do’t think there is a conspiracy…I think there is a conscious bias on the part of some referees. I also think that Riveron did virtually every thing he thought he could get away with to adjust on the field rulings in favor of that northern team. No I do not have proof…it is just an opinion, based upon how one-sided they were and how they violated clear and obvious error requirement.

    3) This is a great question that will require rampant speculation. I opine that Ben will have a lot more input, but that Fichtner will call the plays. Little conflict, at least at first.

    4) Impossible to say, whether frequency of Tomlin calling plays or how much involvement he has had. From unsubstantiated reports, it sounds to me like enough involvement that makes me wonder why Butler has a job. Don’t think it was a good idea…as we know Tomlin makes decisions based upon his gut and IMO his gut is wrong too often. Hubris will require him to keep on.

    5) Well, many of us think that not running the QB sneak on 4th and 1 from the JAX 21 would have made a difference and possibly have led to a TD. I probably would have rather taken the FG, but I do understand going for it. Tomlin was desperate, his defense was failing miserably at that point and offense had just had a bad turnover.


  • Here’s a question: Why are so many people reluctant to even entertain the idea Mike Tomlin is a “B” list coach?


    • Perhaps because it’s palpably false? How many coaches have compiled a better record to this point in their career? How many have gone 11 years without a losing record?


    • Maybe because there is only one active coach with a higher career winning percentage (and that is only slightly highly higher) and that’s Belichick.


  • 1. I think this is way overblown. We have no idea what happened in the locker room or meetings. If people were late, did they have permission? Reporters (I won’t use the term Journalists) may see things but not know the details. Even staff members or players may not know details.

    2. I didn’t buy the conspiracy theories, even though I have been hearing them for years. Then came the James catch. Immediately after the game, my son, a New England fan, texted me that the Steelers were robbed, that there was no way there was enough info to overturn that catch. I re-watched the game. I saw late hits, holding, pass interference etc. that wasn’t called, and let’s not forget the mugging of Eli Rodgers in the endzone on the “interception”. So I watched a few more NE games. Early in the season, that were called for penalties like the other teams. When it looked like NE, Pitt and Jacksonville were fighting for the top seeds, the calls became fewer. Watch the games, the penalties are still there. Then Gronk tried to decapitate a Buffalo player, who was lying on the ground not getting up, when he jumped on him, all 270+ lbs of him, forearm first into the back of his neck and the lower part of his head. A One game suspension… Gronk is too big a star to have on the sideline when they are in a battle for the top seed, had to have him back for the Steelers game. It’s all about match-ups. When NE played Buffalo again, Buffalo had a TD taken away again by prolonged review process, again reversing the call on the field without clear evidence, ensuring a NE win.

    So after the season, before the start of the playoffs, I was again talking to my son, I told him who would win each AFC playoff game (I don’t watch enough NFC games to know who the draws will be.) I told him that Jacksonville would beat the Bills, because the Bills came too close to beating NE in week 16. That Tenn would beat KC because KC can beat NE at home. again, it’s all about match-ups and NE is a bigger audience. NE vs Tenn was easy, they want NE in the AFC Championship game. The only game I couldn’t predict was the Pitt-Jville game. Did they want a rematch of last years game? or did they want the #1 offense against the #1 defense. I don’t think this one mattered to them, it was a win-win for the NFL.

    So why did Blandino quit right after they decided to make all of the review calls from NY?

    3. Fichtner will be calling plays. Things are far more complicated than they were in Bradshaw’s day, and I believe he was one of the last to still call his own plays. From what I have gather from Ben’s and Haley’s interviews over the years is that even when Ben was supposedly calling his own plays, such as in the no huddle, Haley would set the formation, and depending on that, Ben had a limited menu of plays he could pick fro,m depending on what he saw from the defense. There are also a limit number of audibles he can make. Also we could never tell who was calling the plays at any given time, unless it was an audible. While I am at it, there is a primary target on a pass play, but also secondary targets. Ben chooses where to throw the ball, that doesn’t come from the sideline. It’s a joint effort. I don’t expect anything to change, other than Fichtner may be even better equipped to play to Ben’s strengths.

    4. We really don’t have any idea how much involvement Tomlin has in calling defensive plays. It could be as little as, “Hey, this doesn’t seem to be working so let’s try that, what do you think?” Or he could be calling a large number of the plays. But if so, which ones? Was he the one calling the playes whn the defense would come out in the second have and shut teams down before Shazier was hurt? there is no way to make this call with the info we have. Don’t forget that the defense did better than expected overall. They crashed some when they lost Ryan, and when Haden was hurt.

    5. The one coaching decision I would change was that onside kick. What was up with that? Actually I understand the reasoning, I just don’t agree with it.


    • 2. I left this out above. Of course the NFL wanted the Patriots in the Superbowl. Never any question.

      I don’t thing the NFL is completely rigged, but I do think the NFL tries to sway the games the direction they want them to go, and that’s the way that will bring in the most viewers and they will use the officials, no calls, fake calls and the replay to do it.


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