Pittsburgh Steelers Success Begins with Coaching Staff

Jarrod LawrenceContributor IMay 30, 2009

PITTSBURGH - MAY 01:  Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers watches practice alongside defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau during rookie training camp at the Pittsburgh Steelers Practice Facility on May 1, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

With the Pittsburgh Steelers experiencing so much success last season, the coaching staffed seem to often get overlooked. Now, it is time to give credit where credit is due.

The most recognizable person on the coaching staff is Head Coach Mike Tomlin. Tomlin, a graduate of William and Mary University, was hired as the Steelers head coach at the young age of 34. Tomlin is only the third Steelers head coach to be hired since 1969.

With the loss of Bill Cowher, many Steelers fans questioned whether the team could maintain it's high level of play with a new coach. Mike Tomlin answered those questions immediately.

Tomlin guided the Steelers to an AFC North title with a 10-6 record, and a playoff berth in his first season.

He followed that with a 12-4 record and a Super Bowl Championship in only his second season as head coach.

Almost immediately after being hired, Mike Tomlin made an impact on the defense. Although, the Steelers defense can be dominate at times, they were known to have a weakness in pass defense.

That all changed with the hiring of coach Tomlin. In his first season, the Steelers went from No. 20 in pass defense the previous season under coach Cowher, to No. 3 in pass defense after coach Tomlin's first season.

They even improved on that in Tomlin's second season, finishing the 2008 season ranked No. 1 in pass defense, only giving up an astonishing 156.9 yards a game.

Coach Tomlin also had an impact in the Steelers overall defense, where they finished ranked first in total defense in each of his first two seasons as Steelers coach.

It is no coincidence that the Steelers defense improved tremendously under coach Tomlin. Before being hired as Steelers head coach, he was the Defensive Coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings.

Prior to that, Tomlin spent five seasons as a defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay, which helps explain how the Steelers were able to improve so much in pass defense.

He has helped Ike Taylor turn the corner as a DB, and after being benched by Bill Cowher previously, Taylor is now playing at a Pro-Bowl caliber level.

Another coach who deserves credit for the Steelers recent success is future hall of famer, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

At age 71, and still going strong, LeBeau is best know for inventing the zone blitz during the late 1980s while he was a coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals.

LeBeau has spent 50 years in the NFL as a player and a coach. He was born on September 9, 1937 in London, Ohio.

He also played college football in Ohio at Ohio State University for legendary coach, Woody Hayes.

LeBeau spent his entire NFL career with the Detroit Lions as a defensive back. He finished his career with  62 interceptions for 762 return yards and 3 touchdowns.

He also holds the NFL record for most consecutive games played by a cornerback with 171.

Dick LeBeau is considered by many to be the best defensive coordinator to ever coach the game, and ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski was quoted as saying that Dick LeBeau is "arguably the best ever to coach defense".

Although Mike Tomlin is credited with much of the Steelers recent success. None of it would be possible without Dick LeBeau as his defensive coordinator.

LeBeau's zone blitz has confused many teams around the league for years because they never know where the blitz is coming from or who is blitzing.

Ever the mastermind, LeBeau is always coming up with new blitzes and schemes all of the time. Steelers inside middle linebacker has said that LeBeau has already came up with 11 new schemes so far in the offseason.

Dick LeBeau is the main reason that the Steelers defense is so fun to watch for Steelers fans, and so annoying to execute against for opposing teams.

Not to be forgotten, is offensive coordinator Bruce Ariens. He has only been the team's offensive coordinator for years, but in his first season as offensive coordinator, Ben Roethlisberger had the best season of his young career with 32 touchdowns passing, and 3,154 yards passing.

Ariens has over 31 years of coaching experience, and has spent 15 years coaching in the NFL.

Quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson is another person who came in with the Mike Tomlin regime. Anderson also has a ton of NFL experience, playing 16 seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals, and spending 10 more seasons there as an assistant coach.

Ken Anderson, like Bruce Ariens, has also been credited with the recent success of Ben Roethlisberger.

Assistant head coach John Mitchell, who also serves as the Defensive Line coach is entering his 16th season with the Steelers.

Mitchell has been instrumental in the development of defensive linemen Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, and Chris Hoke.

He will look to continue developing younger players, such as rookie Ziggy Hood.

Linebackers coach Keith Butler is credited with coaching arguably the best linebacking core in the NFL.

Butler has been the Steelers linebackers coach since 2003, and has spent 10 years coaching in the NFL.

Butler is the reason for James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley's development. He is also credited with helping James Farrior go from an average player on the Jets to a Pro Bowler on the Steelers.

Tight Ends coach James Daniel is entering his sixth season with the Steelers. He has overseen the development of Heath Miller.

Randy Fichtner was hired by Mike Tomlin as wide receivers coach back in 2007. Fichtner has helped Santonio Holmes develop into a go to receiver, and has continued the Steelers tradition by instilling a toughness in the receivers, and making blocking just as important as catching the ball.

Like coach Tomlin, Ray Horton also needs to credited for the Steelers success in pass defense. Horton was hired by Tomlin in 2007, and has had an immediate impact on the defensive backs, as noted in the earlier stats.

Horton has 14 years of NFL experience, and has helped Troy Polamalu make it to the last two Pro Bowls.

The Steelers special teams, which used to be a cause for panic, has gotten a boost over the past couple of years with the hiring of special teams coach Bob Ligashesky in 2007. 

With 24 years coaching experience,  Ligashesky has helped make the Steelers special teams a respectible unit that no longer makes people cringe when they take the field.

Joining Ligashesky on special teams is assistant special teams coach Amos Jones. He is adept at coaching punt returners, after having coached the 10th rated punt returner in the country, while coaching at Mississippi State in 2006.

Running Backs coach Kirby Wilson brings 19 years of coaching experience to the Steelers. He was hired in 2007, and goes back a ways with coach Tomlin (they both were part of the 2002 Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Bucs coaching staff.

Larry Zierlein was brought in during 2007 to coach the Offensive Line. He brings 38 years of coaching experience with him, and also toughness.

Zierlein served two years in the United States Marine Corps (1966-68), which included a one year in Vietnam (1967).

Harold Goodwin, who is the team's Quality Control coach for the Offense, is entering his third season with the Steelers. 

Goodwin assist in the coaching the offensive line, and he also helps the coaching staff with game preparations, video analysis, and scouting of opponents.

Lou Spanos is the Quality Control coach for the Defense. He has been with the Steelers for 15 years, and is one of two assistants to be on both Super Bowl XXX and Super Bowl XL winning teams.

Harold Goodwin and Lou Spanos are very vital to the Steelers success; they help the coaches prepare for opponents by analyzing and scouting teams and players.

The NFL season may only last 17 weeks, but the season really lasts year round with OTA's, voluntary workouts, and training camp.

In order for players to withstand the grind and physical demands that are put on them each year, it takes someone to help keep them in great shape.

Steelers Conditioning Coordinator Garrett Giemont is assigned with that job. Giemont has 26 years of experience in the NFL, and was named Coach of the Year by The Professional Football Strength and Conditioning Coaches society following the 2002 season while with the Oakland Raiders.

Although, the Steelers players are usually the first people recognized, much of their success would not be possible without the experienced and knowledgeable coaching staff. 

Everyone from Mike Tomlin, all the way down to Garrett Giemont is just as important to the Steelers, and they all contribute to different aspects of the team.  

The Steelers coaching staff is a special group that sometimes go unnoticed, but they are the driving force behind the Steelers success.


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