By Dale Grdnic
PITTSBURGH — Mike Tomlin said his evaluation of the 2009 season and lookahead to 2010 was just in its infancy stages, but apparently the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach didn’t waste any time moving forward once he got going.
According to a Pittsburgh radio host, the Steelers reportedly will fire offensive coordinator Bruce Arians this week. Steelers players like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wideout Santonio Holmes supported retaining Arians after the team’s season ended abruptly Sunday afternoon.
Tomlin, speaking to the media in a season-ending news conference Tuesday afternoon, only noted that quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson told him he was retiring. No one from the Steelers, management or coaches, would officially comment on the report about Arians.
Tomlin said that the Steelers’ 2-4 record against AFC North opponents, like he told his team, was the main reason the club was sitting home for the playoffs. If the Steelers only one those games, including three divisional defeats during a five-game losing skein, they would not have had to worry about tie-breaking procedures and other teams’ results. He also discussed possible changes.
“I don’t approach making major changes in response to our record or anything like that,” Tomlin said. “I like to use the term appropriate changes, and those aren’t knee-jerk reactions or quick decisions. It’s built over time as we evaluate what we put on tape.
“(So), it’s a process, starting (Monday), and we’re in the infancy of that process if you will. My mentality is and always will be to make appropriate changes. So, big changes are not something I necessarily buy into, (but) appropriate changes (will be made).”
Tomlin will be meeting individually with his players and coaches throughout the rest of this week and possibly into the next one, and he also will talk about the upcoming draft with Kevin Colbert, the Steelers director of football operations. That discussion will include personnel decisions, free agency and the upcoming draft to look at ways to improve the roster.
“One of the things I’ve learned about this job the longer I have it is that information gathering is big, reviewing is big,” Tomlin said. “It kind of provides insight into moving forward so these are very valued meetings that I’m having right now.”
After the Miami game, Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison noted that there was an attitude problem that developed and also that some players were playing more for individual goals rather than team goals. Tomlin provided his opinion on the subject.
“I’ve always believed that when pressed in the midst of losing you say things that you may think people want you to say for reasons why you lose,” Tomlin said. “I tend to focus solely on winning. Anytime you’ve got a collection of men, and I’m talking about 53 players, practice-squad players and staff, there’s going to be issues and things of that nature (like) personal agendas.
“We had similar issues when we won the Lombardi. Any time you’re working with a large number of people, it’s going to be very tough to have a pure environment, a utopia. … I recognize (that) selfishness, is part of putting together a football team. (But) I didn’t think it was anything uniquely different than any other team I’ve been involved with. I didn’t think it was abnormal.”
Tomlin noted that the one game he was legitimately concerned about the team’s level of fight or level of energy was during the game at Cleveland.
“We got out-hit and out-hustled, and that was a concern,” Tomlin said. “In the other games, I thought we were out-executed, at times, and I didn’t think we made timely plays in significant moments. Ultimately, we look to be dominant. We want to win decisively.
“Very rarely in this league are you going to be able to do that consistently, but when you’re not you’ve got to make timely plays. We weren’t dominant during that (five-game losing streak), and we didn’t make timely plays during that stretch. That created the stretch, but (Cleveland) was the only game I thought we were beaten to the punch.”
“(But) I like the way that we performed over the final stretch (three straight wins),” Tomlin added. “Even though it was not dominant, because that’s what we desire to be, but the performances were timely. And we made enough plays to be victorious.”
Notes: Tomlin was unaware of any serious surgical procedures needed to repair injuries to players. … Guys like fullback Sean McHugh, Darnell Stapleton and Aaron Smith, who already had season-ending surgeries, were progressing well. … He did not believe that Roethlisberger needed shoulder surgery. … Tomlin added that he would look into ways for his quarterback not to take so many hits. … There was no update on WR Limas Sweed’s status. He returned last week to talk to the team, and Holmes said he looked good.