“We don’t live in our fears; we live in our hopes.”

If one platitude has defined the Tomlin-era Steelers, ne’er an “obviously” could supplant the boast resonated from the coach on top of the world.

Tomlin is not living in his fears, but as is the case with any NFL head coach, he is living on borrowed time. Contingent on Sunday’s bout with Cleveland, at Cleveland, the gamble may be over, and time may have run out for Tomlin.

Hope doesn’t, nor hasn’t won the Steelers a game since October 9th.

Mike Tomlin hoped the Steelers would fare better under Todd Haley rather than fearing Bruce Arians could leave.

Haley famously struggled early on to connect with Ben Roethlisberger, who was outspokenly a fan of Arians. While Arians has not seen the sort of success with the Arizona Cardinals that he saw while coaching the Indianapolis Colts in Chuck Pagano’s absence, missing from Arians’ high-powered offensive? Illogical drives or games—a Haley trademark, like repeatedly failing to shove Le’Veon Bell down the throats of a solid Baltimore Ravens defense for three-and-a-half quarters of a game before figuring out that Ben Roethlisberger is good at, you know, passing.

Apparently nobody has defined insanity for Todd Haley. I’m sure he knows what Hope is, though.

Mike Tomlin also hoped that Keith Butler would evolve the terminally-sound defense that Dick LeBeau built, instead of fearing that Butler might reduce the Steel Curtain to, well, fabric.

LeBeau was put into retirement by the organization, Butler was promoted, and the last time anyone with a 412 area code saw a truly outstanding defensive play was when number 43 was still hurdling defensive lines.

The franchise’s best-ever quarterback should be hoping to see another Super Bowl ring. Should be.

Under the Tomlin tenure, with every injury large or small, Roethlisberger’s biological clock looks to be ticking faster. Ben’s comments of late—critical of Tomlin’s no-holds-barred practices, questioning if players or even coaches are at fault for the mismanagement of winnable games—indicate he’s fearing, not hoping.

At what point does hope naturally convert to fear? Perhaps it already has.

Art Rooney II (Photo Credit: ABC News)
Art Rooney II (Photo Credit: ABC News)

Art Rooney II has to be fearing that the Steelers will place another mediocre season, as 8-8 looks far more likely than 11-5 gem of 2014. That’s not a good look for a franchise with the best offensive trio in the 32-team league.

James Harrison has to be fearing that, in spite of retiring with what will probably be the Steelers all-time sack record, he’ll have gone out with a whimper instead of a bang, and coming back for more (how many times now?) has been for nothing. Zilch. A sack or two and on into oblivion.

Keith Butler is definitely fearing that he bit off more than he could chew—while he and Joey Porter have resuscitated the career of Jarvis Jones, the secondary is slower than and at times, appears wholly uninterested in preventing big plays. Again, Dick LeBeau, legend among defensive coordinators was usurped for Butler’s sake. Yikes.

Nobody knows for sure whether Mike Tomlin fears for his job. He’d never admit to it, but consider this: the Steelers, missing Bell and Brown and playing with an injured Ben, came this close to beating the eventual Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos in the playoffs last year. This year, they were supposed to be even better.

Not one, but three ticking time bombs in the Steelers coaches will take the stage on Sunday. They can live in their hopes and run the all-or-nothing plays…

They can live in their fears and dink-and-dunk their way through Cleveland…

So who’s fearing most here, anyway?

What about us, the fans?

This Steelers team is far removed from the last Lombardi parade.
This Steelers team is far removed from the last Lombardi parade.

We’re talking about firing our Steelers’ head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators should the Steelers find some way to squander an opportunity against a win-less Browns team with Johnny No-Name at quarterback. No, it’s a reality. Really. The Steelers have a better chance at losing than the Browns should at winning.

The Steelers have lost four straight.

To make matters worse, under Tomlin, the Steelers have struggled mightily to win on the road.

The offense is unadaptable and hard-headed, at times off-key and poor at managing time, and most puzzling of all: unwilling to make the most of it’s long-range weapons that are the cornerstone of the entire team. Remember all of those unbelievably successful long-bombs at the beginning of the season?

The defense allows it all: long runs, big splash plays, tight screens. At this point, it’s difficult to understand what they’re even built to stop.

The most stupefying aspect, though, is that these problems are identifiable and dissectible. Their solution begins in the film room, not ground down on the practice field or extra reps in the workout facility. Nobody will sit down and study more film to consider playing to strengths and minimizing weaknesses. But nobody’s listening, nobody’s studying, because everyone’s still too busy living… in their hopes.

How could it not be a time to live in our fears?