I saw longtime reader Randy Steele’s comment on the previous post about all the upheaval going on at Steelers HQ and thought it would make for a good standalone post. Randy’s views differ from most folks’ here and that’s okay.
In fact, it made a lot of sense and would go a long way in explaining why things went down the way they did in recent weeks. That said, if this post makes you angry and you want to throw things, remember, Randy WROTE THIS, NOT ME. Direct your vitriol accordingly. (That’s a joke. Unless you really are thinking about throwing something.)
During the last Steelers Lounge Podcast, I detected a note of antagonism against the Rooneys and their handling of the forced retirement of Bruce Arians. Somehow his dismissal is being interpreted as a meddlesome act by a group of guileless, petulant owners and managers, and should only have been exercised with the proper approval and under the direction of the head coach. Really?
Well, the head coach had his chance to do it right two years ago… and blew it. But let’s back up for a moment.
According to a report by Jim Wexell (whom I generally trust despite him being somewhat thin-skinned and admittedly hot-headed), the Rooney’s wanted to get rid of Arians two years ago, in part because he wouldn’t follow orders and had a big huge loud blubbery mouth. Apparently, around that time, Arians leaked the players that the Steelers were interested in drafting to some of his buddies in the media, and — quelle surprise! — the information got out. (I suspect that’s why Ed Bouchette is so amazingly adept at guessing the Steelers draft picks.)
The Rooney’s, Kevin Colbert, and the Steelers’ scouting organization were dumbstruck, livid, and absolutely furious, not necessarily in that order.
Now, I worked for several decades as a middle manager, fighting the white collar wars day-in and day-out, and while I profess to be no expert, I know that the number one rule for any middle manager is this: Keep the Boss Happy. And in the case that the boss is also an owner, Keep the Boss Extra Happy.
Mike Tomlin failed to do this.
If Wexell’s report is true, two years ago, one of Tomlin’s bosses, either directly or indirectly, mentioned that the team would probably be better off if Arians was shown the door. Tomlin made the mistake of thinking he had a choice in this matter. Instead of heeding his bosses’ instructions, he and Roethlisberger teamed up to plead Arians’ case and save his job. And the Rooney’s relented… for the time being.
I believe that Tomlin made a big rookie mistake. He made the mistake of believing that being a Head Coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers meant (to him) that he had more power and autonomy than he really had. In reality, Tomlin is simply a middle manager in the organization, despite the heady title on his business card.
By supporting Arians and temporarily saving his job, Tomlin had in fact put himself out on the same skinny branch Arians was sitting, which meant that any failure by Arians would now also be Tomlin’s failure, at least in the eyes of the Rooney’s, which is all that counts.
Snap! So when Arians eventually, inevitably failed, Tomlin failed with him.
And so when it was time to finally do the dirty deed, it was the Rooneys’ job to pick up the ax and swing it, all of which means Tomlin’s authority has been trimmed considerably, I believe.
My point is this: Mike Tomlin should have fired Arians two years ago, rightly or wrongly. By not doing it, he weakened his standing in the eyes of the Steelers’ owners and managers, and consequently, is now suffering the consequences. And one of those consequences is that he most likely did not get to choose Arians’ successor, and he most likely will not get to make any serious hire or promotion without the Rooneys’ and Kevin Colbert’s approval.
I don’t believe that Mike Tomlin has nearly as much authority or trust within the organization as many of us have believed. And I wouldn’t be surprised when it comes time to renew Tomlin’s contract, if the Steelers don’t play hardball with him extra hard. After all, his successor, if he’s had any success with the offense at all, may already be in the building.
- Randy Steele