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Mehno: Tomlin failed by sticking with Leftwich

November 21, 2012
By John Mehno - For the Mirror

PITTSBURGH-Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was given a test in crisis management during Sunday night's game against the Baltimore Ravens.

He failed.

Tomlin stuck with quarterback Byron Leftwich, even though it became apparent that Leftwich was injured. Third-stringer Charlie Batch warmed up, but never got the call to go into the game.

Leftwich was injured badly enough that he was immediately ruled out of this Sunday's game in Cleveland.

NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth made note of the signs that Leftwich was hurting, including a badly underthrown pass on the final series when the Steelers were desperately trying to get into position to kick a game-tying field goal.

If Collinsworth noticed that, why didn't Tomlin? For that matter, where were offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner?

Leftwich said he could play through the pain, which is admirable. But that's what players almost always do. They don't ask out of games because they feel like they're letting the team down. Someone else has to make that call. That's what coaches do.

In addition to whatever problems he might have had throwing the ball, there are issues in moving around with a rib injury. There's also the matter of how pain distracts a player from concentrating on his work.

Batch is the third-team quarterback for good reason. He isn't as good as the two players ahead of him on the depth chart.

But wouldn't a fresh, healthy quarterback be a better choice at that point than one who was dealing with a painful injury? You may stick with Ben Roethlisberger through injuries because he's a potential Hall of Fame player. There are no such expectations with Leftwich.

The circumstances screamed for a quarterback change, at least for a series.

Tomlin's inaction was a big factor in the unhappy outcome.

Wearing out

You may have noticed that footing was an issue in Sunday's game.

Players were routinely slipping and kicking up the sand that's used to help keep the grass in place. There was no precipitation during the week, so that's a sign that the playing surface again needs to be addressed.

The Steelers have three home games in the regular season's last four weeks.

It's again time to call out the groundskeepers.

Happy Thanksgiving

It's the most wonderful time of the year, the holiday that merges family, food and football in one spectacular long weekend.

Here's hoping your holiday includes ample portions of all three.

I'm thankful, as always, for space in the newspaper to share opinions, and for readers who take the time to consider them.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

 
 
 

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