Mike Tomlin's coaching staff is entering it's fourth year. All but five of the coaches on his staff are people Tomlin hired to help carry out his job as head coach.Of the five coaches Tomlin kept from Cowher's previous coaching staff. Four of the coaches Tomlin kept are defensive coaches. Possibly one of Tomlin's best decision's ever was keeping Dick Lebeau the defensive coordinator, Keith Butler linebackers coach and Ray Horton defensive back coach on the Steelers' staff.
The Steelers' defense was probably the largest contributing factor during the 2008 season for Steelers making it to and winning the Super Bowl.The Pittsburgh defense that year was the number one rated defense of 2008. While the Pittsburgh offense was rated in the bottom half of the NFL at the 22nd spot.
In 2009 the Steelers' defense slipped to 5th in the NFL do to injuries to key players and an over confidince by the coaching staff in the back up personal that the coaches had choosen. The 2009 Steelers' offense rank improved to 7th in the NFL.
At first glance that offensive rank would seem like a big improvement over the 2008 season. Till one actually looks into the stats. After you look at the stats, it would seem some of the teams that were ranked higher than Pittsburgh in 2008 did worse in 2009. Thus allowing the Steelers to move up past them without really improving all that much. Which lets Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator look like his offense showed great improvement. When it really didn't. That's why despite having a 5th rated defense and 7th rated offense the Pittsburgh Steelers ended up with a 9 and 7 record and didn't make the playoffs in 2009.
Pittsburgh's passing attack did put up great numbers in the 2009 season in over all passing yards and 28 passing touch downs, which was 9 more passing TDs than in 2008. The other side of the coin is there were 6 less rushing touch downs, the third down conversion rate dropped 3% and redzone scoring efficiency dropped a little to 21 st in the NFL from the 2008 season. So Pittsburgh stayed in the bottom half of the NFL at those three stats. Over all the Steelers' Offense scored a whopping 1.3 points per game more in the 2009 season than they did in the 2008 season. So other than putting up a record amount of passing yards, there was very little improvement on the Steelers' offense.
With Mike Tomlin's contract in it's fourth and last year. Tomlin should have everything on the team established the way he wants it. This could be the year the Rooneys expect to see a real improvement in at least two areas of their team if not three. Meaning mostly offense, special teams and to a lesser degree at the defensive back positions.
To improve special teams Tomlin has hired a new special teams coach, brought in players through free agency and drafting new players that might help improve the special teams play. The special teams coach Al Everest has the least input into which players are put on the 53 man starting roster. Everest has to make do with the players he is given to use while the players are learning to be back ups at other positions and coach them into an better special teams squad than they have been the previous two years. Which have been among the worst special teams in the AFC.
It would seem the defensive backs coach Ray Horton has the least amount to do to improve the Steelers defensive back field.With the return of LB Larry Foot and CB Bryant McFadden. Horton just has to get his players back into 2008 form and coach up the newer players to compete for the starting positions. While hoping to find a future starter amoung his new recruits.
Sean Kugler is the newly hired offensive line coach who spent the last two years with Buffalo possibly has one of the tougher and most important jobs. Teaching a mixed age bunch of offensive lineman to relearn their jobs so they can be better at what they do or at least do everything his way. The offensive line unit, though not bad, is not good either and has the most room for improvement.They need to improve their run blocking and pass blocking after giving up 50 QB sacks in 2009. Some of those Sacks were the fault of the QB Ben Rothlisburger and some because the Steelers'were not much of a threat at running the ball in some situations. But the line was still responsible for too many sacks and quarterback pressures.
With Kugler in his first year with the Steelers. Kugler will be looking to improve the O line however possible. So none of the offensive linemen will be getting a free pass to the roster. All offensive linemen will be evaluated and graded by what Kugler sees.
It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to lineman. So depending on what Kugler sees we might be seeing some players moving around on the offensive line or maybe some back ups that were considered up an comers last year not looked on as well this year when the 53 man roster is made out at the end of pre season.I believe it was Kugler who had the Steelers' sign free agent RT Jonathan Scott who was with Buffalo when Kugler was coaching there. Whether he is kept and put on Pittsburgh's 53 man starting roster will depend on what beauty Kugler sees in the other offensive lineman the Steelers' have in camp.
Head coach Mike Tomlin over sees all the coaches of the Pittsburgh team.But it is the hope of many of us that he pays extra attention to his offensive coordinator Bruce Arians this year. Because that is the area the Steelers need to improve the most, on offense. With the players Pittsburgh has no excuse not to improve their offensive stats more than 1.3 points per game or raise their 3d down conversion rate above the 39% it was in 2009. The Steelers offense has to be able to run the ball when they need to not just when they feel like it. I often wonder if Arians even considers adjusting his game plans in the second half or just blames failures on poor player execution.
Arians said in a recent interview that the Steelers' offense was running the ball well at the end of 2009 traing camp aginst 3-4 defenses. But in the 2009 regular season they had trouble run blocking against 4 - 3 defenses because it took a totally different blocking technique. That implies they did not go over that enough in training camp and the offensive line was not properly coached through training camp.
Barring an over whelming amount of injuries the outcome of the Pittsburgh Steelers 2010 season is all up to the coaching staff. From the first 53 man starting roster to any adjustments they make in the fourth quarter of the final game. Players play the game, but it is the coaching staffs job to minimize the players mistakes and use the players in ways best suited to their talents.
Pittsburgh winning or losing in the 2010 season. Is as much on the coaching staff, as it is on the players. Maybe more since the coaches pick the players they want on the 53 man starting roster!