BALTIMORE — Mike Tomlin is widely considered one of the better player’s coaches in the NFL.
Tomlin has a reputation of relating to his players in a fashion to get them to play hard because of his honesty, straight-forwardness and his no-nonsense approach — all attributes that players love.
Saying that, Tomlin is doing wrong with the most influential player on the Steelers’ defense.
Tomlin made the decision to remove veteran linebacker James Farrior for the final two series of the first half of Sunday’s 35-7 loss to the Ravens because what he said afterwards was because “we had made a commitment to play Larry Foote some.”
At any other position, I’d buy that as a logical reason. At cornerback, I’d buy that reason.
But when you are talking about the unquestioned leader of your defense; the eight-time defensive captain; and the all-around most-respected person on the Steelers’ roster, it’s hogwash.
Farrior deserves better.
“I’m healthy and everything is fine,” disappointed Farrior said afterward.
But obviously everything isn’t fine … or should I say won’t be fine.
For Tomlin to make a drastic decision to remove Farrior for series at a time, there’s a problem, and that problem may get worse before it gets better.
Foote has no way surpassed Farrior in quality of play on the field. Off the field, Farrior is invaluable.
Just think, a guy like Farrior is replaced because of his decline while William Gay and Bryant McFadden remain on the field.
I’d be shaking my head if I was Farrior.
The Steelers were trailing just 14-7 at the time of Farrior’s removal in the second quarter, and the Ravens quickly went on an 11-play drive that resulted in a touchdown. Foote missed a tackle on a play, but that’s beside the point.
Well, maybe that is the point. Foote is a backup for a reason.
Farrior doesn’t deserve to be treated like he did Sunday because even if the man is in his 15th year in the league, he still hasn’t lost it.
Foote is not head-and-shoulders better than Farrior to warrant the change, which makes it all the more head-scratching.
Apparently, Tomlin doesn’t agree with my assessment.
“Larry had a good preseason,” Tomlin said. “We respect both of them. We know that both men are capable of standing in front of our defense and make calls, and we would like to play both men.”
But at what cost?
There is an old adage that if you have two quarterbacks then you really don’t have any.
Same can be applied here.
You can’t just switch out an important position as the inside linebacker in a defense like the Steelers and think there won’t be problems internally and externally.
“We made a commitment early on that both me were going to play, and we stood up to it,” Tomlin said.
If it’s just for one game then that’s fine.
Farrior doesn’t match up very well with speedy running backs like Ray Rice anyway so the reason would be logical against the Ravens.
Putting Foote in on obvious passing downs because Farrior lost a step is one thing but taking him out series at a time is another — one that is puzzling at best.
Remember, Farrior was one of the best players on the defense a year ago. He lost it that quick?
It’s going to be interesting how this plays out, but next week against Seattle should tell plenty.
— Mark Kaboly