Fourth & Goal

Tomlin has tried the bombastic approach, to no avail. This week he's taking a new tact -- and it's no lock, either.

The head coach hasn't thrown in his Terrible Towel, but he came about as close to throwing a few of his players under the bus on Monday as he ever has when he vowed to be "aggressive in terms of looking at potential changes" for the struggling Steelers.

Mike Tomlin meant schematically and in terms of personnel.

Hey, at least he's unleashing a little hell.

Tomlin said what needed to be said, particularly as it relates to the not-good-enough play in the defensive secondary. And he announced his displeasure with the usual Tomlin Tenor and Tomlin Tempo, both of which were absent during a postgame media briefing on Sunday that was sprinkled with more resignation more than any other in the Tomlin Era.

But the Mike Tomlin Press Conference is first and foremost a TV show. It's a valuable tool for delivering messages, and Tomlin took full advantage on Monday.

He did promise to consider major changes for Cleveland on Thursday, but those are would seem either unlikely or at best temporary.

As this losing streak has gone on, Tomlin has tried applying perspective ("Redemption Sunday") and inspiration ("Unleash Hell"). Since neither approach worked he's decided to see if threatening certain below-the-line individuals might scare them straight.

But the Steelers, at 6-6, are at least still mathematically alive in the race for a Wild Card invitation to the AFC's postseason tournament. And that being the case, winning the Super Bowl ought to remain the goal.

If it is, then the Steelers can't seriously be contemplating eventually lining up against Tom Brady or Philip Rivers, on the road, in the postseason, with Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis on the corners.

One of those guys probably gets a start in place of concussed cornerback William Gay, and perhaps even earns a late-season shot at altering the pecking order at Gay's position.

But the real target here has to be Ike Taylor, a player Tomlin publicly confirmed as one the coaching staff was in the process of reassessing in relation to playing time. And the object of the assault must be to get Ike back to his old form by any means necessary.

At his best Taylor will never be confused with Champ Bailey or Lester Hayes. But Ike is better than he's been this season, especially against the Raiders.

Ryan Clark, like Taylor no All-Pro, is also better than what we've seen in recent weeks. The difference is Clark knows it. Ike apparently needs to be reminded/slash/convinced.

Potential changes that make sense include Ryan Mundy for Tyrone Carter (we saw that late against the Raiders) and Ziggy Hood for Nick Eason (we saw that on passing downs against the Raiders). Limas Sweed might also get more snaps at wide receiver if Hines Ward can't tough out a hamstring injury sustained on the second-to-last play against Oakland. But three or four new bodies in the secondary in the second week of December isn't the answer for the defense, any more than a Wild Cat package for Dennis Dixon is for the Steelers' sudden third-down and red-zone woes.

The Steelers have lost four in a row, including games to the Chiefs and Raiders. As currently configured they also were good enough to beat the Chargers, Vikings and Broncos. Of course, they had Troy Polamalu for two of those games.

Threatening those who have been trying to carry on without him won't bring Polamalu back any sooner. But if it makes his absence a little easier to deal with, until his eventual return, Tomlin's Tirade will have been well worth the Monday bluster.

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