Mike Tomlin Outlines Two Key Areas Steelers Must Improve For Rest Of Season

The bye week allowed Mike Tomlin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching staff to take a step back and offer a long evaluation of the team. In today’s press conference, Tomlin noted two areas the team needs to get better at to have an equally successful second half of the season.

Better turnover ratio. More splash plays.

“We’re minus one,” Tomlin told reporters. “That usually doesn’t go along with 6-2. I know one of those games really skews that number because we turned the ball over quite a bit in Jacksonville. Nonetheless, to be minus one at the turn is an area we’d like to be better at. We need to take care of the ball better. We need to get the ball more. So that’ll be something we focus on. Usually, teams on the rise over the second half of the year do a great job of taking care of the ball and an increasingly better job of getting the ball. And that needs to be us.”

That minus-one ranking is tied for 18th in the league. Only one other team in the NFL that’s in the red in this stat has a winning record – Carolina with an improbably bad -8. Look at the teams that surround the Steelers: Tampa Bay, San Francisco, the Giants. That’s a lot of losing.

In 2016, the Steelers finished in the top ten with a +5, a number they’ll look to match, or ideally, better, this time around.

The turnover ratio led into Tomlin’s next point of emphasis.

“Cashing in on splash play opportunities. I don’t think enough is written and said about that…we’ve had splash play opportunities on offense that were missed over the first half of the year that would’ve made our journey easier. And we’ve had splash play opportunities on defense that were missed. Specifically, we had an interception opportunity at the end of our last ball game that could’ve created a scenario where our offense didn’t need to earn a first down in order for us to secure victory.”

Tomlin, of course, is referring to Ryan Shazier’s dropped INT on 4th and goal against the Detroit Lions. Shazier honestly may have been able to run it the whole way back and even if he didn’t, would’ve given the Steelers much better field position that in the event of a punt, the Lions would’ve had to drive the length of the field with little time to do so.

Later in the presser conference, Tomlin referenced the missed first play against the Chicago Bears, Martavis Bryant not hauling in a pass deep downfield that would’ve been a walk-in touchdown.

Despite those valid critiques, the Steelers offense isn’t doing an objectively bad job at producing big plays. They have nine passes of 40+ yards, tops in the league, when they had just ten such plays a season ago. It’s not about sweeping changes but gradual improvement so come playoff time, the Steelers are playing their best football.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Rob

    Also, tackling

  • Stairway7

    Just 2 areas???? How about 3rd down conversions? How about red zone offense? How about clock management? No problems in these areas?

  • ThatGuy

    RZ offense and Pass Defense between the 20s.

  • will

    “Cashing in on splash play opportunities. I don’t think enough is written and said about that…” obviously, 🙂 Tomlin has not been reading Steelers Depot over the first 8 weeks of the season or he would not have made this statement.

  • Darth Blount 47

    My two big ones are situational football on Offense and tackling on Defense. We get those two things squared away and we’ll be deadly.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    So what Tomlin basically said was, “forcing the ball downfield numerous times a game isn’t our problem. It’s not connecting on those forced attempts.” Wait… it gets better. He wants to simultaneously cut down on turnovers while continuing to try to create splash plays. I wonder if he knows these 2 things contradict one another.

    Im all for cutting down on turnovers. His point about turnover differential is well received and completely valid. You always want your defense to create turnovers. I would have thought, however, that situational football on offense (3rd down; red zone) would be a far more pressing matter than splash plays.

  • J.

    ALways the splash plays with Tomlin. Hey Tomlin improve these two things and you will not have to worry 1) Tackling 2) Red Zone Touchdowns. Sorry but the fact he is always so worried about splash plays to me is a bit concerning. Take care of the basics ans splash plays will happen.

  • Mark

    Agree with turnovers, but will add redzone and 3rd down efficiency. We’ve missed so many 3rd and short opportunities, it’s ridiculous.

    If we convert on 3rd down and score TDs, it makes our defense look a lot better.

  • Sam Clonch

    Don’t have the stats, but I feel like it was only the Detroit game when that was a problem. Matt Stafford will do that to ya!

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    You try to fix everything; then you’ll end up fixing nothing. The team needs to focus and the two areas Tomlin identified would likely have a ripple effect.

  • Jones

    They gave up on scoring from inside the 20s, so they need more splash plays to punch it in from 30-40 yards out, lol

  • Stairway7

    You may be right but you can scheme to fix red zone, 3rd down and short yardage deficiencies. You can’t scheme to create turnovers and splash plays.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Don’t you think they work on that during practices?

  • FATCAT716

    I don’t think Tomlin was saying were not going to look to get better anywhere else but just making a point of emphasis on those area’s the 2nd half of the season that hasn’t been talked about much. We all talk about red zone area & 3rd downs

  • Jason

    I love how guys missing tackles gets blamed on Tomlin. As if there’s any technique at this point in their careers that he can teach them when it comes to tackling.

  • FATCAT716

    He never said nothing else matters. He is talking about splash plays that are open the word he used was “opportunity” we missed on a lot of those opportunities. Red zone was an area that we heard the defense mention after that Lions game that Tomlin challenged those guy’s so it’s something he’s already assessing.

  • FATCAT716

    Everything is Tomlins fault except being 6-2 & if so only to say they should 8-0

  • Steelerfan4lifeinAZ

    Better call selection when it comes to down and distance as well as possibly mixing in NEW PLAYS.. I practically can predict every play Haley calls and i’m a fan, imagine what the other teams notices.

  • ryan72384

    Red Zone efficiency in my opinion is the biggest area that needs marked improvement. I get depressed everytime our offense enters the red zone. Then I get REALLY depressed when we have first and goal inside the ten. As bad as the offense has been at times this year I am very surprised to see we lead the league in 40 yard pass plays. One can only think where this offense would be had it reached its full potential this year. Wow

  • J.

    Did I say I blamed Tomlin? No I said that he should be talking about that being something they need to improve on in the second half if this team wants to hoist #7. I love how guys read something and rush to defend Tomlin when Tomlin is not being blamed for what they are defending him for. If you think this team can continue to miss tackles and win games more power to you but IMHO it needs to be improved upon more than having more splash plays.

  • Jason

    How would you go about improving the tackling?

  • Rich Stafford

    Isn’t it funny how that works… In this town there isn’t a deficiency that can’t be blamed on the Head coach, QB or offensive coordinator.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    Just like I would with a young kid. I’d start with the basics: form tackling. I would expound upon issues of greater complexity from there. I’d also have them watch tape on the Seattle Seahawks. They miss less tackles than any team in the NFL. It just so happens that they are the best defense in the league over the previous 5 to 10 years. You think that’s a coincidence?!

  • Generic Steelers Fan

    He probably doesn’t even know how to spell third down ha ha because he is so bad at being a head couch.

    What a maroon. Time to fire the dingus

  • MC

    One thing they’ve improved on has been penalties. Lets hope they iron out the others (redzone woes, 3rd down conversions) in the second half of the season.

  • NCSteel

    Listen, those splash plays need to come early. Game script can be written in the first half. Getting up big early can give your defense a different mindset and different objective, ditto your running game, on and on..
    I don’t care as much about a 40+ yard play if your up by 17 with 2 minutes left or down by 17 for that matter. Grab teams by the throat early and the fight will go out of them faster.

  • John Pennington

    Agree with both might add better communication in the secondary between MM and Burns.Ben needs to play better and get everyone involved in the game and see the field better.

  • Brenton deed

    “Splash plays” could be Tomlin’s way of telling the press “I’m not telling you what we’re really thinking”. After all he may as well have said: “Make plays that means we win.”

  • 2020_Vision

    Bruh, You know Tomlin can’t catch a break around here. The team is winning despite him seems like the consensus around here. The Steelers are in good shape and in good hands. This year looks to be special. Just worried about Philly. They look like a problem.

  • J.

    Maybe because Stafford is one of the only top notch QBs they have had to face this season. Sure they clamped down on Alex Smith but they have done so since he came to KC. Other than that they have faced garbage QBs so of course it looks like only the Detroit game was a problem.

  • Sam Clonch

    So the absence of evidence is the evidence of absence (of pass defense). Got it.

  • J.

    As long as we keep them out of the endzone though who caress what yards they get between the 20’s.