It is highly expected that at some point this week Pittsburgh Steelers’ Team President Art Rooney II will give his thoughts on the team’s 2017 season. One of the first questions he is sure to get will deal with the lack of changes to the Defensive Coaching Staff. It is among the many questions that need to be asked but as of this writing it may be the most important.
Insanity as you know is defined as “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.” In the eyes of some, this is what Mike Tomlin, Keith Butler and the Steelers are practicing by not making any changes. After all this is a defense that has given up over 70 points in their last two postseason games. How in the world can’t there be at least one change?
Citing official rankings and statistics will only get you so far with me in defense of keeping everyone. This unit struggled against the run more than any time in the recent past and while they set a record for sacks in a season with 56, there are some alarming problems there as well. For one, of those 56 sacks, only 17 came from outside linebacker positions.
T.J. Watt had seven, Bud Dupree six, Anthony Chickillo had three and James Harrison had one before he departed. On one hand, we should be encouraged that pressure came from a diverse number of areas of the defense but then again hasn’t the staple of this unit always been sack totals from the outside rushers? Dupree has likely played himself out of a fifth-year option but does Outside Backers’ Coach Joey Porter deserve some blame for not developing him more? Has Porter developed anyone for that matter?
What about Defensive Backs’ Coach Carnell Lake? This unit is among the poorest in the league at tackling and the safeties do not create nearly the amount of turnovers that you need and expect. 2016 First Round Draft Pick Artie Burns did not take the next step in his development as we would normally expect and I put some of that on poor coaching. Is Lake’s past as a Steelers’ great keeping him around longer than he should be? It’s a fair question to ask.
By not making any changes, the Steelers seem to be saying that “Execution (or the lack of it)” was the major reason for the poor showing against Jacksonville. This also suggests that they feel the system is sound and that a few personnel changes will make all the difference. Perhaps that is true but I’ve seen a lot of football in my life. In fact, I’ve seen a lot Steelers‘ football in my life and what I’m seeing is a lack of development and an inability to adjust on the fly.
We all know about the Steelers’ history of patience and more often than not it has paid off but I think this is an instance where some change is necessary. Whether it be Porter or Lake or someone else doesn’t matter. I’m just afraid we’ll be having this same conversation again a year from now.
And trust me, I really want to be wrong about this.