Pittsburgh Steelers fans questioned why Mike Tomlin played starters in the preseason finale.
While the preseason is in the books, Pittsburgh Steelers fans are waking up on Monday morning and wondering why head coach Mike Tomlin decided to play his starters in Sunday’s glorified exhibition.
It may have been a home game vs. the Detroit Lions, but two of the team’s most important players in outside linebacker T.J. Watt and wide receiver Diontae Johnson sustained injuries. Although football is a game of injuries, Steelers fans should be thanking their lucky stars neither injury is being deemed to be serious. Could you imagine if either were season-enders, though?
While using the penultimate preseason game as a dress rehearsal was commonplace not that long ago, Tomlin may have to pivot from treating the third and final preseason game like any other.
Pittsburgh Steelers fans questioning Mike Tomlin’s preseason finale plan
Look. If any head coach should be given the benefit of the doubt to play his guys in a meaningless preseason game such as the one on Sunday evening, Tomlin would have to be on the shortlist. However, he has to realize that this year’s Steelers team has very little margin for error. They play in the same division as the defending Super Bowl champions, as well as the Baltimore Ravens.
Even if the Cleveland Browns remain a hot mess, Baltimore has a motivated Lamar Jackson quarterbacking them and the Cincinnati Bengals are not going to fall off a cliff, mostly because Joe Burrow is the freaking man, man. To be frank, Pittsburgh has too great of uncertainty at quarterback to even think about being without stars like Johnson or Watt for extended stretches.
What this comes down to is two things for Tomlin and the Steelers: One, how many coaches in the NFL have better job security over him? This allows him to do things that could potentially make the fanbase uncomfortable, such as leaving key players like Johnson and Watt exposed to possible injuries in a meaningless preseason game vs. the Lions who are all about biting kneecaps, man.
The other thing to keep in mind is Tomlin is Steelers culture: Thriving amid adversity. Chuck Noll started it and Bill Cowher continued it in their Hall-of-Fame careers. Tomlin knows how to handle crises better than most in his position. However, you do not want to leave your team shorthanded by your own doing, especially in the preseason ahead of a campaign with zero margin for error.
Tomlin has never had a losing season at the helm, but there is always a first time for everything…