On the heels of an embarrassing loss to the division rival Cincinnati Bengals that relegated the Pittsburgh Steelers to a .500 record, coach Mike Tomlin believes the time has come for a shake-up. He's frustrated, he's determined, and changes are apparently on the way.
"What you can't do is continue to do the things you've been doing and expect a different result," Tomlin said, noting that both personnel and schematic adjustments are on the way. "They won't be drastic," but "hopefully significant."
What those changes might entail remains to be seen; Tomlin was vague on details, saying only that it could involve "repositioning" players or using more depth. The coach even suggested that a padded practice could be in order this week. An always-physical game against the division-leading Baltimore Ravens is up next, and if the Steelers aren't up to the task, their playoff hopes with a loss would look mighty dim.
"We'll see on Sunday, won't we?" Tomlin said. "Like I mentioned earlier it's put up and shut up time. Talking doesn't get it done. I can quell you in that question with an answer, but it's not real. What we do in that stadium on Sunday is real. We're not seeking comfort, we're not trying to quell the masses. We stunk it up, so we're going to wallow in our stench for a while and wait for our next opportunity to play football."
Pittsburgh's play in the 41-10 loss to the Bengals didn't go unnoticed by former Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark, who was highly critical of the performance, in particular of the team's defense in noting a lack of physicality and energy on that side of the ball. Tomlin didn't disagree with the recent criticisms from his former players.
"They would know. They know the things that we value," Tomlin said. "I don't know specifically what you're talking about. The guys that have been here, guys that have been in that room, guys that understand the standards that we aspire to, they probably have a better understanding of that than anybody that's not in that room right now. I would imagine, whatever it is you're referring to, I agree with them."
Asked about a comment from wide receiver Chase Claypool that Steelers practices could be more fun and include music, Tomlin dismissed the suggestion in his classic no-nonsense fashion.
"Claypool plays wideout and I'll let him do that," Tomlin said. "I'll formulate the practice approach that division of labor is probably appropriate."
The Steelers (5-5-1) remain in the playoff hunt, but it won't be an easy climb. Five AFC teams not leading their division -- the Bills, Chargers, Raiders, Broncos and Bengals -- have winning records ahead of the Steelers in the race for a wild-card berth. And with the Colts and Browns both at 6-6, Pittsburgh will battle a crowded field vying for the postseason.
And if Tomlin has anything to say about it, that push will come with a far better effort than the Steelers showed on Sunday.