It is less than 24 hours since the Cleveland Browns, yes, the CLEVELAND BROWNS, laid nearly 50 points on the Pittsburgh Steelers and kicked them out of the playoffs. Emotions continue to run high, as they should, and in these moments are when often hasty, ill-informed decisions are made. There is little doubt however that significant and massive changes are needed to the organization. The question is, will the Steelers have the courage to make them?
Ben Roethlisberger is no longer in a position to demand who the coordinator is and who he isn’t. At best right now he has one year remaining in Pittsburgh and the offense under Randy Fichtner has become so bad that I’m not even sure Roethlisberger would reject change anyway. It’s not always that easy though. Bringing in a new coordinator means new terminology and that’s tough on everyone but especially the QB. Is Big Ben willing to learn a new offense in what could be his last year?
Frankly, that can’t be part of the decision. Fichtner has to go. Defenses caught on to what he was doing and he never adjusted. His personnel groupings were a mystery to all of us. Last night for example he chose to use two tight ends in a spread formation leaving James Washington standing on the sidelines. On consecutive third and short situations he used the same play. It worked the first time and the second time? Well, you know… Defenses routinely call out what the offense is doing and when that starts happening you’ve got yourself a problem.
Keith Butler is a really good football coach. But even the best coaches run out of time and Butler has. Last night was like a nightmare where the same thing keeps happening over and over and you can’t do anything to stop it. There is no way with only one wide receiver in the game in a spread formation that Robert Spillane should be tasked with covering Jarvis Landry. Remember that game a few years ago when Keenan Allen torched our LBs the same way? Not even Devin Bush would have stood a chance last night.
Speaking of last night, where were the playmakers? T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward and Minkah Fitzpatrick all came up empty in the biggest game of the season. Is that due to the scheme that was created? Perhaps and perhaps it was just all three having bad nights on a bad night to have a bad night! Butler has provided the Steelers with a ‘good’ defense since Dick LeBeau left but it’s not nearly good enough as we’ve seen in the last couple of playoff games.
Offensive Line Coach Shaun Sarrett should be the first guy sent packing quite frankly. While I don’t think it would be fair for anyone to expect him to be as good as Mike Munchak was, his unit has regressed. They no longer attack the line of scrimmage. The techniques have worsened and the ability to adjust has all but disappeared. With Matt Feiler and Alejandro Villanueva gone and Maurkice Pouncey and Zach Banner possibly gone, there’s no better time to start over with a new line coach than now.
Our resident gum-chewer Danny Smith has overstayed his welcome too. The Steelers’ special teams units rarely make splash plays and there is little to no creativity unless you like seeing guys motion all over the place in an attempt to get a team to jump offside. Smith has largely kept his job due to the success of Chris Boswell and the terrific pay of Jordan Dangerfield. In the NFL however, your special teams’ units have to be a vital phase of the game and Smith’s rarely are. I really thought he had turned a corner earlier this season but opponents adjusted and he didn’t follow suit.
Normally, this many changes, especially both coordinators, would be a tall task for any team to take on. But with the likelihood of so many guys gone and so many new faces brought in, it seems like the perfect time. If you’re wondering why Mike Tomlin isn’t listed above then let me explain. Unless he chooses to move on, I do not believe he will be relieved of his duties. That’s not how the Steelers operate.