The 2012 season isn’t officially over for the Steelers until this Sunday when the clock hits zeros in their final contest against the Browns. By then they’ll either by a .500 team or finish with a losing record for the first time in Mike Tomlin’s career.
The coaching staff in Pittsburgh has taken a lot of heat this season, mainly on the offensive side of the ball. Tomlin will have to hire a new Offensive Line Coach, now that Sean Kugler who came over from Buffalo has accepted the Head Coach position at UTEP. He’ll also likely hire himself a new Special Teams Coach.
One member of the Steelers has assured his players that he will return in 2013, as long as Mike Tomlin wants him. Dick Lebeau will be 76 this September and the already Hall of Famer says he’s excited to return next season.
“Let’s just say I really like Pittsburgh and I really, really like working for the Steelers,’’ LeBeau said. “But coach Tomlin will have to tell you whether he wants me back or not.” The Steelers defense ranks No. 1 in the NFL in fewest yards allowed, No. 1 in fewest passing yards allowed and is second in fewest rushing yards allowed.- Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Some fans feel it’s time for Coach Dad to step down and let Linebackers Coach Keith Butler take over the reins of the league’s #1 defense overall. One can make a case either way quite honestly but ranking wise in the league; Lebeau clearly still has some magic left. His unit has been hampered by injuries yet again this season but they’ve been able to excel overall, particularly in the secondary.
Pass rush wise, there are changes likely coming with personnel (we’ll cover that this weekend), but for the time being it looks like Lebeau will back at Latrobe this summer and back on the sidelines this fall. That being said, Mike Tomlin wouldn’t really have the heart to fire Lebeau anyway, would he?
Special Teams is a hot topic; after Tomlin fired Al Everest just before the season started and handed over the reins to assistant Amos Jones, you had a feeling things would be dicey. At least I did. Amos Jones was hardly a slouch in the coaching circles, having studied under Al Everest and helping to substantially increase the productivity of the coverage and return games in 2011. Still, Mike Tomlin insisted on helping to run that unit, along with Jones, and when that happens there’s bound to be friction. Nothing against Tomlin but he’s the HC, and let’s face it those personal differences with Everest could also have affected the coaching with Amos Jones too.
That’s just my opinion but when two coaches work together and develop a rapport, and have success at that, then one is taken away, well you can see where things just didn’t go as planned for the Special Teams this season. The return game was worse than 2011, Chris Rainey wasn’t used enough for many fans tastes, and the coverage units allowed entirely too many long returns.
Tomlin could still take a step back and allow Amos to be more hands on by himself but things seem to point to a change for next year.
The Steelers Offensive Line has been a constant saga of musical chairs for the last few seasons. While you can’t blame that solely on the coach, there is a conditioning and preparation point of view which would fall at least partially into Kugler’s lap. He’s done an admirable job, if not exceptional, in getting the players ready each week. The fact that they’ve been able to be so versatile is a tribute to his coaching as much as anything.
Having said that, I’m excited about the potential of a new face on Tomlin’s staff at this position. There is some serious young talent available that any Offensive Line guru would love to get his hands on. Maybe the line still has injury problems in 2013, maybe not, but there will be a new face here for sure.
Todd Haley’s job is pretty safe, at least that’s the consensus of the local media and most fans (even if they don’t agree with it). Things were pretty rough at time this season with Todd Haley’s offense, and many fans are calling for his head but that’s normally not how the Steelers do things. They take coach hiring’s very seriously to avoid as many disruptions in future years as possible. Haley will get another chance to make things work with a full season now under his belt and hopefully a healthier group to work with next year.
If Tomlin were to replace Haley, that would be the 3rd coordinator in 3 years; not something an offense wants to deal with.
There will indeed be some changes next season for the Steelers coaches but nothing earth shattering coordinator or head coaching wise in Pittsburgh. As my partner Marc pointed out on Thursday, Mike Tomlin isn’t going anywhere.