He’s been virtually free of criticism as most rookie coaches are during the first several months. But his grace period is now finished, and it is time to critically analyze his major decisions
n Why did he sign off on the release of Joey Porter, the outspoken leader of their defense?
Tomlin knew he had a capable replacement in James Harrison and drafted two outside linebackers in the first two rounds. Porter isn’t exactly making a big difference with the 0-3 Dolphins, either. It seems like it was the right decision.
n Why did he bring in Sean Mahan to replace center Jeff Hartings when the Steelers already had his replacement, Chukky Okobi, on the roster?
Mahan was familiar with Tomlin and won the starting job, allowing the Steelers to free up salary cap room by dumping Okobi. Mahan has been solid in helping the line play above expectations this early in the season. It seems like it was the right decision.
n Why did he trade up and use a valuable fourth-round draft pick on a punter?
Daniel Sepulveda has been everything the Steelers thought he’d be. He not only can boom punts, but he’s done a great job on his few opportunities of pinning teams inside their 20-yard line. It seems like it was the right decision.
n Why did he spend so much time in training camp on special teams and why did he trade for 31-year-old returner Allen Rossum before the regular season?
The Steelers’ special teams unit has been a bright spot so far with kicker Jeff Reed automatic on field goals. Rossum returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. It seems like they were the right decisions.
n Why did he keep Dick LeBeau as defensive coordinator and not switch to his own specialty, the 4-3, cover-2 defense?
The Steelers’ personnel this season is better suited for a 3-4. Through three games, the defense is averaging four sacks per game and is giving up less than nine points per game, which is tops in the NFL. Again, it seems like it was the right decision.
Tomlin also seemed to make the right choices in giving Ike Taylor his starting job back, allowing Ben Roethlisberger to have more input in the offense and smoothing out the Alan Faneca contract mess for the time being.
It’s been tough trying to find fault so far with Tomlin and his decisions. Even after listening to him speak at his press conferences, one is left with the feeling that this guy knows what he’s doing.
So far, so good.
NFL Week No. 4
Game of the week: Cincinnati at New England, 8:30 p.m. Monday (ESPN).
Upset special: Oakland (+3 1/2) at Miami.
Fantasy tip: Vernand Morency is close to being healthy and could be the Packers’ starting running back soon.
Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.