Coach Mike Tomlin gave a resounding vote of confidence to defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, but acknowledged that the offense and defense took turns not performing to acceptable standards during the 8-8 season that concluded Sunday with a victory against the Cleveland Browns.
In a season-ending news conference this morning, Tomlin said the offense started off well enough this season under new offensive coordinator Todd Haley, but did not perform nearly as well after the team was 6-3.
Conversely, he noted that the defense started slow when they blew fourth-quarter leads in Oakland and Tennessee, but came on late in the season when they finished ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total defense and pass defense.
About the offense, Tomlin said, "We started off well in time of possession and third down. Obviously, we were not ascending in those areas in the second half of the season. Those were the Achilles heel for us."
When asked if he thought there was a prolonged adjustment to Haley's offense, Tomlin said, "I didn't believe it would be significant to prevent us from winning and I still don't."
Then, when asked for an assessment of Haley's performance, he said, "He was an 8-and-8 coordinator. Like I was an 8-and-8 head coach."
But, when asked if he wanted defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau to return in 2013, Tomlin said, "I think everyone is aware I'm happy with the work of Dick LeBeau. He's a special guy."
Tomlin, though, acknowledged that the amount of injuries to most of the Steelers' top players was a contributing factor to the team's .500 record and missing the playoffs for the second time in his tenure.
The Steelers were 3-5 in games decided by three points or fewer in 2012.
"We didn't do enough in the closing moments of close games," Tomlin said. "That will produce an 8-8 record.
"Good teams are dominant largely in those moments to get out of stadiums with victories. We didn't do that enough."
Tomlin also said DE Brett Keisel, who sprained his medial collateral ligament against the Browns; and CB Keenan Lewis, who sprained his MCL in practice two weeks ago, will not need surgery.
He also said safety Ryan Clark spent Sunday night in a hospital after sustaining what Tomlin termed a "severe contusion" of the left quad. Tomlin said the stay was precautionary and Clark was released today.
Gerry Dulac: email@example.com; twitter: @gerrydulac First Published December 31, 2012 6:00 AM