Watch Tower: Steelers Run Defense, Tomlin Sideline Stutter, Reviewed

Pittsburgh’s bipolar season opener vs. Cleveland sent Steelers Nation to the barricades in search of a scapegoat at the prospect of another season gone sour.  While pointing fingers is very easy, stopping to really understand what is going wrong is a little more complex. The Watch Tower begins its review of Steelers press coverage with a look at one writer who attempted to do just that.

Delving into What Ails the Steelers Run Defense

The internet lacks no shortage of “Fire Tomlin” or “Fire LeBeau” sentiment. Which isn’t to say that such conversations are entirely out of order when discussing a team that has been outscored 50-9 in 6 quarters.

Steel City Blitz took a level-headed, nuanced approach at doing just this and made some respectable points, and in conversations with commenters (full disclosure, one of these was yours truly) he clarified that one of his main trusts was that Dick LeBeau was attempting to force players into a system – a point also raised by Joe Starkey and Dale Lolley.

Jim Wexell of Steel City Insider has taken a different approach.

  • And he went where no other Pittsburgh journalist had gone – tracing the Steelers defense’s difficulties to the loss of Larry Foote.

Yes, the same Larry Foote whom the Steelers cut without much fanfare, the same Larry Foote who went to Pittsburgh West and played like a stud in their season opener. Wexell doesn’t suggest the Steelers erred in opting to go with Ryan Shazier and Lawrence Timmons. But he does say the Steelers are missing a defender who longed for contact, the way Foote and James Harrison did.

While Wexell is far from the only commentator to single out Cam Thomas, in the space of just a few lines he delivers detailed analysis of what ails the Steelers run defense.

Tomlin, in Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood

What is the journalistic equivalent of “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” Perhaps its, “If a major news organ invests serious time in researching a hot story, but no one pays attention, does the story still count?”

  • Such was/is the plight of Alan Robinson of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

As everyone in Steelers Nation, really everyone who follows the NFL, knows, last year in the Steelers Thanksgiving loss to Baltimore, Mike Tomlin stepped on the field and almost impacted with Jacoby Jones.

While Cortez Allen had a good angle on Jones and probably would have tackled him anyway, Tomlin’s side line stutter step was illegal, and the biggest story of the week.

Tomlin, whose 2013 relationship with the press had been increasingly antagonistic, turned on the charm in his weekly press conference, inviting any and all questions.

One of Tomlin’s defenses was that he’d been standing where he normally stood during kickoffs, and his drifting on to the field was a product of carelessness.

  • The league seemed to accept that explanation, fined Tomlin, and moved on.

The Tribune Review however reviewed Tomlin’s behavior during kickoffs and found that, in fact Tomlin’s positioning during the Jacoby Jones return wasn’t in fact in character with past behavior. You’d think that the Trib. would have had something explosive on their hands?

  • Guess again. When presented with the new evidence, the league hid behind “No further comment.”

The story failed to gain traction (perhaps in part due to its running on a Saturday) and was largely forgotten, until Alan Robinson brought it up in advance of the Steelers Thursday night loss to Baltimore. He mentioned the research done last December by the Trib. and supplemented with quotes from Tomlin’s former team mates and NFL commentators, including Soloman Wilcots.

  • The story again failed to gain traction.

Perhaps part of the reason is that Robinson didn’t provide a back like to his own story. This practice is the rule at both the Tribune Review and the Post Gazette, although one has to wonder why, given the added time on page and SEO benefits of back linking to one’s own work.

Whether it gets widely read or not, Robinson’s story is highly relevant, as it provides another example of Roger Goodell’s office taking a selective approach to due diligence when it suits his purposes.

Kemoeatu’s Kidney

Chris Kemoeatu may have left the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2011 season, but he was in the news recently, as all major media outlets documented Kemoeatu getting a kidney transplant from his brother Ma’ake Kemoeatu.

This is certainly a worthy story, but the Watch Tower can’t help but ask why the Post-Gazette and Tribune Review chose to cover this, but declined to run a story on Isaac Redman’s retirement, given that Redman was still starting for the Steelers just 1 year ago.

Thanks for visiting. To read more analysis of the media that cover the Steelers, click here to read more from Steel Curtain Rising’s Watch Tower.

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