Tomlin’s Test — Steelers to Face Detroit, Cleveland

The next two weeks on the Steelers schedule have them at Detroit and then the Browns travel to Pittsburgh. The opponents’ boast a collective 1-7 in the won-lost columns. If you think the Steelers have nothing to worry about, think again.

Winning the Games You’re Supposed to Win

What is the difference between the 2005 Steelers and the 2006 Steelers?

Besides the fact that the 2005 Steelers delivered One for The Thumb.

The 2005 Steelers defeated the Tennessee Titans (4-12), the Houston Texans (2-4), and the Green Bay Packers (4-12).

The 2006 Steelers lost to the Atlanta Falcons (7-9), Jacksonville Jaguars (8-8), split with the Cincinnati Bengals (8-8), and lost to the Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland/(someday again to be) Los Angeles Raiders 2-14.

  • The 2005 Steelers regular season record was 11-5. The 2006 finished at 8-8.

Certainly, its true that Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, a lack of a back to share the load with Willie Parker, and perhaps the uncertain status of Bill Cowher’s future clouded the 2006 Steelers.

But the fundamental principle remains the same:

  • The 2005 Steelers beat the teams they were supposed to beat*
  • The 2006 Steelers lost to teams they should have beaten

Those 2006 Steelers win 3 out of those 4 games they lost, and they go to the playoffs and get a shot at repeating.

They lost those games and stayed home.

Avoiding the “Schedule Game” Trap

Everyone denies they play the schedule game, looking at a schedule and saying “we got a W there, another W there, the following week’s going to be tough tough, but we got another easy win the next week after that….”

One of Cowher’s achievements, at least in the latter part of his career with the Steelers, was to keep his team focused the week’s opponent. They walked the walk when it came to the schedule game.

Tomlin’s Test

Mike Tomlin certainly does not play the schedule game. Listen to Tomlin in this week’s press conference, and you’d think the Steelers were traveling to Green Bay to play Lombardi’s Packers in late December.

But can Tomlin get the team to follow his example?

Steel Curtain Rising asked that question last year before the first match up against the Benglas, but the truth is, given the brutal nature of the Steelers schedule, Tomlin needed no help keeping the team focused.

He seemed to admit as much when he remarked that he really didn’t need to do anything to focus the team for the playoffs, because their schedule had already focused them.

However, one of the criticisms of Tomlin during his first year was that the Steelers seemed to sink to the level of their competition. The 2007 Steelers lost to:

  • The Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
  • the Denver Broncos (7-9)

To make matters worse, they also dropped one in overtime to the lowly New York Jets (4-12).

  • Curtain’s Call: Tomlin will pass this exam but, given the 4th quarter meltdowns against the Bengals and Bears, one can legitimately classify this as a “test.”

*Full Disclosure: Steelers Digest Editor Bob Labriola made this observation early in the 2005 season, after the Steelers opened with victories against the Titans and Texans.

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