Pittsburgh Steelers: Familiar Faces Could Lead to Coaching Changes
Black Monday has passed with most and the list of coaches who will be on the market has been pretty much rounded out. The Pittsburgh Steelers haven't cut ties with any of their staff just yet and Mike Tomlin said evaluations would begin this week.
Some former Steelers coordinators and coaches weren't so lucky, however.
Former Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was let go by the Arizona Cardinals Monday afternoon. His firing led to former Steelers offensive line coach and assistant head coach Russ Grimm subsequent parting ways. He held the same title with Arizona under Whisenhunt.
Furthermore, another former-Steelers offensive coordinator-turned head coach was relieved of his duties on Black Monday when Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey was fired following a disappointing 6-10 season.
The firing of the former-Pittsburgh offensive coordinators especially has fueled speculation as to whether current Steelers OC Todd Haley's job is in jeopardy.
Pittsburgh's front office decided to axe Bruce Arians following the 2011 season because they thought the offense had plateaued and they couldn't get over the top with him in the position. So, they hired the former Chiefs head coach to take his job.
In 2012, Haley's offense ranked 21 in the NFL in total offense, averaging just over 330 yards per game. The Steelers were also 26 in rushing offense in Haley's first season at helm.
The previous year, Arians' offense ranked 12 in the league and averaged over 40 more yards per game. His offense in Indianapolis, where the 11-5 Colts are headed to the playoffs, ranks 10 this season. Not bad for a guy who wasn't doing enough to remain with a Super Bowl contender.
Pittsburgh won't get Arians back, as he is now one of the hottest names in terms of head coaches. But that doesn't mean they need to feel stuck with Haley.
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Both Whisenhunt and Gailey have had success with the Steelers in terms of offensive production.
Whisenhunt is very familiar with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger after coaching him from from his rookie year in 2004 through 2006.
In his three seasons as the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, Whisenhunt's offense never ranked lower than 16, was good enough to bring Pittsburgh another Super Bowl and peaked at seven in his final season with the team.
Gailey never worked with Roethlisberger, but had a lot of success with the Steelers under Bill Cowher in the 90's. His offenses won the division all four seasons Gailey was with the Steelers and made one Super Bowl appearance before he became the head coach in Dallas.
Now, it's highly unlikely that the Steelers will make a move on Gailey or even look to get rid of Haley at this point. They've traditionally held onto their coaches for some time. But Whisenhunt, in my opinion, has to remain an option for the Steelers.
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He's got a great rapport with Roethlisberger and can help turn the Steelers rushing offense around. Pittsburgh averaged 138 yards per game on the ground under Whisenhunt and have failed to be an elite team running the ball since his departure.
That could have something to do with the offensive line and the departure of former OL coach and assistant head coach Russ Grimm.
Besides being a member of the notorious Redskins offensive front affectionately known as "the Hogs," Grimm served as the Steelers offensive line coach from 2001-06, before leaving with Whisenhunt for Arizona. During his time with the Steelers, Pittsburgh boasted one of the best offensive lines in the league and won one Super Bowl.
Current Steelers OL coach Sean Kugler has been with the team since 2010, but the offensive front hasn't really gotten to where they should be in terms of production. Keeping Ben Roethlisberger upright and establishing a ground game have to be the Steelers top offensive priorities.
Now, Grimm's departure from the Steelers wasn't exactly the most glamorous the first time around. He'd been interviewing for the head coaching vacancy left by Cowher when the Steelers hired Tomlin.
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But Grimm would have some of the best talent he's ever had to work with on the offensive front.
Young players like Mike Adams, David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert are a great complement to Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey and mauling guard Willie Colon. With the right coach, the Steelers could again have one of the toughest offensive fronts in football and, in turn, a return to the days of their dominant running game.
Like I said before, it's highly unlikely the Steelers make any kind of coaching changes outside of special teams coach Amos Jones, who's coverage schemes didn't work out too well for Pittsburgh this season. But they have to be interested in a few guys who helped make this team great in former seasons.
There's a much better chance of the Steelers grabbing Grimm than firing Haley and searching for a new OC but, as we have already witnessed, nothing is certain in this offseason's coaching carousel.
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