Aubrey “Nostradamus Junior” Bruce and his expert team of professional football “archaeologists” recently traveled to a secret “bone orchard” located in “Middle East,” Pennsylvania and exhumed his long-buried and long-lost Ouija board with his historical football GPS now back in hand. Henceforth, this communique will forever be known as “Tales from the NFL,” not “Tales from the Crypt.”
“You can’t win without the horses.”
The Pittsburgh Steelers NFL HOF scout William Nunn Jr., once told me: “You can’t take a mule to the Kentucky Derby.”
During the past few years, the talent evaluation process of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been, shall we say, “a bit under the weather.” There have been instances when the Pittsburgh Steelers appeared to have been wrapping duct tape around leaky “personnel information” pipelines rather than replacing those sources of information. Don’t believe me? Ask the Jarvis Jones diehard fans. Oops, sorry, can’t find any. Jones has been exiled to the “valley of dry bones.”
The Steelers thought the drought had ended when they selected Ryan Shazier as their #1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. However, Ryan Shazier suffered a career-ending spinal injury on Dec. 4, 2017. The Black and Gold chose linebacker Devin Bush as their #1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. It has taken the Steelers almost five years for their defense to recover from the Ryan Shazier tragedy and the Devin Bush debacle.
Enter current GM, Omar Khan. Khan does not fit the image of a slick, fly-by-night Vegas gambler. Rather his persona appears to be that of an unassuming soft-spoken type of gentleman with a razor hidden up his left sleeve and a cannon in his right back pocket. Oh, and he also owns the dice and the cards. Many of his adversaries didn’t realize it until it was too late but Omar Khan won the fight before it even began.
From almost every vantage point, it appears that Omar Khan has addressed almost every defensive and offensive discrepancy that the Pittsburgh Steelers had after the conclusion of the 2022 season. From the quarterback position to the offensive line, wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends it appears that the Steelers are poised to have a breakout season, at least from the offensive side of the ball. Kahn and Head Coach Mike Tomlin have removed some of the dead weight from the offensive side of the ball and acquired a few more draft picks in the 2024 NFL draft.
In 2022, the Steeler defense was already a bit limited, and it seemed that the defense was almost always just one injury away from being a “one-trick pony.” For example, the Steelers’ all-universe outside linebacker T. J. Watt missed seven games due to injury. During his absence, the Pittsburgh defense all but tanked. After that disappointing turn of events, Omar Khan went out, drafted, traded, and signed available free agents in order to supplement an excellent group of starters that were already in place. However, unlike the Steelers’ offense, which seemed poised to strike, the Steelers’ defense was already striking. They were just waiting for the offense to catch up.
Put me in coach, I’m ready to play! The following are a few excerpts posted regarding the head coaching abilities and ranking of the head coaches in the AFC North by NFL writer Jarrett Bailey. Mr. Bailey recently posted his thoughts on behindthesteelcurtain.com: “There is a vocal part of the Steelers’ fan base that will always refuse to give Tomlin his flowers, but those people are simply wrong. The lack of playoff success over the last half-decade is a very valid criticism of Tomlin, but there is no denying he is one of the three best coaches in the NFL today and the best coach in the AFC North.”
There were times that Tomlin didn’t win championships because he didn’t have the horses, not because his coaching was or is lacking. For the last 3-4 years his offense was saddled with the ineffective and subpar performance of his franchise quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, who, for several seasons, was not very “franchise-like.” However, Mr. Bailey dishes out mad props to the Ravens’ Headmaster John Harbaugh (whom he rated the second best head coach in the AFC North), glowing about his coaching ability: “Even when Lamar Jackson has gone down, Baltimore has remained competitive. They were a playoff team in 2022 and were just one game outside of earning a playoff berth in 2021. All of that was made possible by their coach who gets the absolute best out of his roster year in and year out.”
Haven’t Mike Tomlin’s teams been competitive, year in and year out, without a starting QB?
Why won’t they give Tomlin his flowers while he remains alive and in Pittsburgh? It is my theory that many of them will not praise his work or his deeds even after he is long gone. A line from William Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Julius Caesar, says it all. “I have come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The good is oft interred with their bones.”
So let the good that he does, die with Tomlin…oops, I meant Caesar. It seems that day after day, month after month, and year after year, many of the Steelers faithful come to praise everyone but Mike Tomlin. As far as they are concerned, every criticism of Mike Tomlin is valid based on the fact that he should have never become the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first place.
Seven Steelers opponents outside of their AFC North Division had losing records in 2022. The Cleveland Browns had a 7-10 record last year.
The strength of the Steelers’ 2023 schedule indicates that they should post a 3-3 record within their division, and they will end the 2023 season at 10-7 if they defeat the Patriots or the 49ers. They will finish at 11-6 if they defeat the Patriots and the 49ers. Both games will be played at Acrisure. As the Late Walter Cronkite might say: “Goodbye good luck and good news tomorrow.”