The personnel side of changes will take care of themselves as the off-season begins about 4pm on Sunday for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Decisions of who will be cut and who will be scouted in the draft are already underway but there are two specific changes I’m looking forward to the Steelers making on the coaching staff.
The first thing that needs to be addressed is somewhat taking care of itself in that offensive line coach Sean Kugler is leaving to take the head coaching job at UTEP as soon as the season finishes. I have always liked Kugler and his ability to make linemen into versatile, productive players, but I also feel that coaches can reach a threshold and I believe he has reached his in Pittsburgh, new job in Texas or not.
The one thing a position coach cannot control is injuries and Kugler certainly had to deal with his share from Maurkice Pouncey to Willie Colon to Marcus Gilbert, but every team deals with this to one extreme or another and Kugler did what he could but I saw a problem that had little to do with personnel.
The Steelers this season had three straight games with a rusher over 100 yards this season and that was pretty much the bulk of the rushing success this season. While I lay blame on Mike Tomlin for not being able to settle on one guy in the backfield (yes, injuries contributed to that) a lot of the issues to me stemmed from a lack of in-game adjustments.
If you go back and watch any of the Steelers’ games from this season and you might want a barf bag ready, watch the O-line from beginning to end. It was obvious to me that the offensive line did very little to adapt to what the defense was doing. Take the San Diego game for instance. The Chargers made it very clear they were going to bring pressure and the Steelers struggled to pick up the pressure points all afternoon. In fact, handling pressure got tougher for this line as the season progressed.
The Kansas City game was similar and you can’t just look at sack totals. When the rushing attack is struggling, the defensive coordinator suddenly has a wide-open play sheet that allows him to pretty much do anything and more often than not, Kugler and his linemen struggled to adapt.
It’s clear the guys on the line and many in the Pittsburgh press like Kugler and as I said, I do too, but just like a head coach that has been around too long, perhaps these linemen could use a different voice to listen to in 2013. They need someone who can make ‘on-the-fly’ adjustments better and who is willing to get this line back to being aggressive and attacking.
The other change that must be made on the coaching staff is at Special Teams. Head Coach Mike Tomlin needs to get his hands off the unit altogether and let a full-time special teams’ coach come in and take over.
Al Everest, who was so unceremoniously canned during the preseason, was doing a pretty good job in my opinion with this unit. Could it have been better? Of course, but it was certainly a step ahead of what we got following his dismissal.
The penalties by this unit often put the offense at an immediate disadvantage in terms of field position and when the offense is backed up, that limits what the offensive coordinator can do in terms of play-calling. Many of these penalties are avoidable and show a lack of attention to detail and a lack of discipline by the members of the unit. Blocking in the back to me, is unacceptable and the Steelers suffered from this ailment as if it were a disease.
You eliminate those penalites with repetition and discipline. If you see a guy’s back you don’t hit it. If you aren’t sure if you have the angle or not then you don’t attempt the block. Easier said than done right? No, it isn’t if you’re actually focusing on it and ‘making guys accountable’ on a daily basis rather than just addressing the problem after it has happend.
With the return men the Steelers have, you just cannot afford penalties and mistakes. I’m urging Mike Tomlin to go out and get a full-time Special Teams coach who will turn this unit into a weapon and a positive rather than a detriment.
By the way, if you thought I was going to address Todd Haley or Dick LeBeau, all I can say is… “Stay tuned.”
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.