Pittsburgh Steelers: Coaching Staff Profile

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Pittsburgh Steelers: Coaching Staff Profile
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

When Mike Tomlin was hired as the new Steeler head coach in Jan, 2007, he was given an enormous task of assembling his own coaching staff.

The question was: will he keep some or all of the current staff who was under Bill Cowher?

The key to the coaching staff is in the coordinators.

Of Course, there are many assistants but the coordinators along with the head coach develop the plays and assemble the playbook.

A coordinator is in charge of a specific football discipline that represents a specific command level under the head coach.

The following three coordinators, along with Coach Tomlin, are instrumental to the success of the Steeler organization.

Without them there may not have been a fifth or sixth Super Bowl trophy.

 

Offensive Coordinator: Bruce Arians

Arians spent three seasons as wide receiver coach under Bill Cowher. He was promoted to OC by Mike Tomlin.

He is one of six assistant coaches, who remained on Pittsburgh’s staff following Mike Tomlin’s hiring in January, 2007. Arians has previous experience as he spent three seasons as OC for the Cleveland Browns (2001-2003).

In 2002, under Arians’ guidance, the Browns improved in virtually every major offensive category under his leadership. At that time, the Browns scored the most points since their 1987 season. Tim Couch was the starting quarterback but was replaced by Kelly Holcolmb midway through the season due to injury. 

In the AFC Wild Card game, Holcomb and Arians' offense took a huge lead against the Steelers in Heinz Field. The Steelers were down 24-7 in the third, before Steeler QB Tommy Maddox commandeered a 22 point comeback in the fourth quarter.

Ultimately, the Steelers won to advance in the AFC Divisional Game which they lost to the Tennessee Titans.  

Before Cleveland, Arians was the Indianapolis Colts quarterback coach and was responsible for the development of Peyton Manning (1998-2000).

Under Arians’ tutelage, Manning totaled 4,413 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2000 to break his own club season record. His 33 touchdown passes in 2000 established a Colts’ franchise record previously held by John Unitas.

As Steeler OC, Arians and current QB coach Ken Anderson (former QB of the Cincinnati Bengals), work on the development of Roethlisbergers’ QB skills implemented to one of its most productive offensive years in the team’s history.

In his first year 2007, Arians helped Roethlisberger get elected to his first Pro Bowl, as he broke Terry Bradshaw’s long standing record for most TD passes in a season with 32.

He also finished with a career-best and team-record QB rating of 104.1.

Arians faced a challenge in 2008. The running game faltered, missing two starting backs, two linemen down, and a quarterback who was repeatedly getting sacked.

He took a different approach, by using the pass to set up the run. It was done in all three playoff games the Steelers won in 2006 to get to the Super Bowl.  

Then Arians worked with Roethlisberger in avoiding trouble when it comes to holding on to the ball too long.

He accomplished that by developed a quick hitting passing attack.

It’s a quick 2-3 step drop designed to make it more difficult for defenses to get to the QB quickly.

The offensive line under the leadership of line coach Larry Zeirlein, had to get comfortable with the new formation.

 

But it all started to pay off in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens.

The offensive line playing at a higher level since the last time these two teams met, and Roethlisberger was releasing the ball quicker and making strikes where needed.

The end result—Super Bowl XLIII is in the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Defensive Coordinator: Dick Le Beau

Dick LeBeau begins the sixth season of his second tour of duty with the Steelers, for whom he experienced much success during the mid-1990s as both the team’s defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator.

Considered the architect of the Steelers’ famed “zone blitz,” LeBeau was named the Steelers’ defensive coordinator Jan. 16, 2004, after spending the 2003 season with the Buffalo Bills.

His impact on the coaching staff was profound as the Steelers returned to the top of the NFL in total defense and rushing defense.

In 2005, LeBeau’s defensive game plans played an integral part in stopping four of the NFL’s top five offenses in the AFC playoffs, including limiting Seattle to just 10 points in Super Bowl XL.

He continued his success in 2008 as he helped the defense finish the season first in overall defense, first in pass defense and second against the run.

He is credited with inventing the "Fire Zone" or "zone blitz" defense, which employs unpredictable pass rushes and pass coverage from various players.

His defenses typically employs 3-4 sets, with any of the four linebackers and frequently a defensive back among the pass rushers, while defensive linemen may drop back into short pass coverage zones to compensate for the pass rush coming from other positions.

The design is intended to confuse the opposition's quarterback and frustrate its blocking schemes, as the offense may be unsure on each play of which defenders will rush the passer and which will drop into coverage.

While often described as a "blitzing" scheme, the call on any particular "zone blitz" play may involve only three or four pass rushers but from unpredictable positions and angles.

 

Bob Ligashesky: Special Teams’ Coordinator

After the departure of Kevin Spencer to the Arizona Cardinals, Tomlin hired a little-known coach names Bob Ligashesky to special teams’

A Pittsburgh native, Ligashesky spent two seasons as the special teams coach for the St. Louis Rams (2005-2006).

The Rams’ special teams unit in 2005 scored its first touchdown on a kickoff return since 2000 as Chris Johnson returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for the score in Week 5 against Seattle.

Also in that same year, it marked the third time since the Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995 that the club had at least two blocked kicks in a season.

Ligashesky’s unit also forced and recovered fumbles on special teams for the first time since 2000.

However, the Rams finished near the bottom that season in punt returns, kickoff returns and kickoff coverage and yielded three return touchdowns.

Ligashesky was fired in 2006, after Chicago’s kick-off return specialist Devin Hester return two kicks for scores.

Prior to joining the Rams in 2005, Ligashesky served as the assistant special teams coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2004, his first season in the NFL.

Unfortunately, the results in 2007 were just as miserable as the Steelers finished the season ranked 30th in kickoff coverage, 20th in kickoff returns, and 30th in punt returns, in addition to allowing a pair of return touchdowns, one being the 73-yard return by Arizona WR Steve Breaston.

Ligashsky’s special teams unit allowed three kickoffs of 90-plus yards and a half-dozen 44-plus run backs in 2007 and by year-end ranked Nos. 16 and 14 in those respective categories.

The tide turned in 2008, when special teams’ as the defense allowed only one return for approximately 44 yards reducing the opposition’s average from 30 yards per carry in 2007 to 26.4 yards per carry.

The Steelers finished 2008 with the AFC's No. 1 special teams in both kick-and punt-return defense.

In addition, the coverage groups were consistent in allowing 19.3 yards per kickoff return and 6.2 yards per punt return without surrendering a touchdown during the regular season.

Special teams’ finished the year as NFL's No. 1 kickoff defense and No. 4 in punt defense.

Although defensively special teams has improved, the return game has not.   

The Steelers have made attempts to fine good return guys but none have produced as much as former WR Antwaan Randle El.

The hope is the tide will turn in 2009 as the Steeler did draft, two rookies specifically for their return skills, WR Mike Wallace, Ole Miss and CB Joe Burnett, UCF

It all remains to be seen.

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