The trio of Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders entered the 2012 NFL season with more promise and potential than any receiving corps in the league yet never came close to those expectations. While injuries were a factor, they are far from the whole story as all three under-whelmed all season.
The offensive line suffered injuries as well but this was nothing new. Injuries have plagued this unit for several years now and the inconsistent play was a major factor in the declining health of Ben Roethlisberger and a lackluster running game.
The Special Teams’ unit for the Pittsburgh Steelers was a train wreck from the beginning of the season when Al Everest was unceremoniously fired in the pre-season for a still as of yet unexplained reason. Penalties, turnovers and a complete lack of discipline on that squad did nothing to help this team and in fact cost it on more occasions than not.
So is it a bit ironic that today all three units will be coached by different men in 2013? I think it is a direct shot across the bow whether from the front office or Mike Tomlin himself to the players that it’s time to put up or shut up at the confluence.
I don’t care what anyone tells me, WR’s coach Scottie Montgomery was sent packing. He coached the “Young Money Crew” and had little to show for them. Perhaps he was too friendly and too interested in them being stars, I really don’t know but when you bring in a 65-year old man to replace him it isn’t to make friends.
Richard Mann is being brought in to ‘coach’ the receivers, not to play nice with them. Sadly, with Mike Wallace essentially already out the door, this hire comes a year too late. Who knows what the trio could have accomplished had they been held more responsible for their actions or lack thereof.
I really liked Sean Kugler as OL coach. He had some old school approaches that seemed to resonate with his guys but I also felt there was something missing too. It always felt to me like Kugler was more about making these guys diverse in terms of playing multiple positions rather than making the line a truly dominant force.
New coach Jack Bicknell, Jr. has already been rumored to be bringing with him a new ‘zone blocking scheme’ which will not only alter the way the team blocks, but will also require a different type of lineman. Bicknell likes quicker, leaner and more agile linemen and that also comes with more sacrifice and a greater need for discipline.
Special Teams will now be handled by Danny Smith who comes over from Washington after being there in that capacity since 2004. At 59, Smith fits a similar mold as Mann in that Tomlin will be looking to age and experience to garner respect, discipline and results from this always important unit.
There was no question to even the most casual of Steelers’ fans that the Steelers lacked discipline last season. As former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden once said, “If discipline won football games then Army and Navy would be in the national championship every year.” While I understand his point, I don’t necessarily agree.
Much like the running game in the 21st century has to be about effectiveness and not so much about quantity, discipline is often the same. Can your team be structured and organized in a manner that makes discipline almost a secondary thought and at the most important times?
You can’t have a veteran like Brett Keisel jumping off-sides on third and short. You can’t have persistent holding calls on special teams that ruins good field position and you sure as hell can’t fumble the ball eight times in Cleveland.
These are good changes in my opinion but they may be just a year too late.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.