...Sorry this started as one idea and blossomed so I had to split it into two posts...
This has been quite the tumultuous offseason so far and the Super Bowl hasn’t even been played yet. Who’s going, who’s not? Arians stays, Anderson retires. Ligashesky, the most obvious firing in history occurs, but he is replaced by Al Everett, who didn’t exactly lead a stellar special teams group in San Francisco. We couldn’t get Bobby April, who has history with the Steelers. Art Rooney II does something very un-Rooney in airing dirty laundry publically, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement looks like we are heading for my personal nightmare, 2011 with no football. It looks like this is going to be quite the year. All this and more after the jump.
Rooney Speaks – This is one of the topics that has me a little concerned, not panicking, just thinking deeper on the subject than I ever thought I would. I refuse to compare Art Rooney II with Al Davis or Jerry Jones, however, the change from the historically silent involvement of the Rooney’s is quite monumental. This makes me wonder, did Bill Cowher see this coming? I don’t necessarily believe money was the issue, I think it was control. To return to coaching is going to cost some team $10 million a year and 100% control, but I think Cowher would have stayed if the Steelers had offered $6 million and 100% control. This is NOT a "Fire Mike Tomlin" rant at all. I like Tomlin and think he was a great hiring, I just wonder if Cowher saw Dan’s successor and decided to play hardball or move on…on the other hand, the newest President Rooney didn’t say run more, he said run better. Hopefully, the next time we hear from him will be the next time we raise the Lombardi.
Coaching Carousel – First off, Kugler is a great choice for Offensive Line Coach, but I will get back to him later on. So, Al Everett instead of Bob Ligashesky. Not sure how to feel about this. Why do we seem to recycle coaches instead of finding the next great coach, giving the little guy the chance. We have a great personnel department, but maybe scouting coaches is a weak point. Not getting Bobby April is not necessarily bad, but I wonder about Tomlin’s ability to "draw" the big coach. So right now, with Olsavsky’s hiring, we only have a vacancy at WR Coach (although rumor has it Ray Horton’s status as DB Coach may still be up in the air.) I didn’t see Ken Anderson’s retirement or Fichtner’s subsequent promotion, so I didn’t really go through the ringer on the options for WR Coach Candidates when I did my last article. Here is exactly what I wrote:
"Replacement – I am only listing one guy because I think this is the least likely, but I think this hiring would greatly benefit both the Steelers and Mike Tomlin. Charlie Williams, WR Coach for University of North Carolina. First, Tomlin’s first year with the Buccaneers what Williams’ last, so they know each other. Second, since returning to the college coaching ranks, Williams has coached at South Carolina, Arizona, and now UNC, developing the following players: Troy Williamson (Vikings), Mike Thomas (Jaguars rookie and Arizona star) and from UNC the following strong rookie class: Hakeem Nicks (NYG), Brandon Tate (Titans), and Brooks Foster (St. Louis). Nicks and Tate are legitimate NFL WRs. I especially like this because Nicks is very similar to Sweed in size, speed and route running and Nicks had some drop issues early in his UNC career he was able to fix."
Now, I will list two other possibilities for this because there is now a vacancy.
#1 – Isaac Bruce – Future HOF WR
First before everyone throws out the "players nowadays don’t go straight to coaching because of the extra hours, blah blah blah," he is reportedly already interesting in the Rams job and Keenan McCardell just was hired to coach the same position for the Washington Redskins. To me that proves there are exceptions and some guys just love the sport and imparting their knowledge about the sport the future of the sport as coaches is the next logical step. The question is would Ward take to learning from a guy he has played with/against for the last decade?
#2 – Bruce Arians – OC/WR Coach
The media let us know when the Steelers were interviewing ST Coaches and OL Coaches and that Randy Fichtner was interviewing for QB Coach leaving this vacancy. To go further, we knew who the candidates were for the Defensive Quality Control/Asst Linebackers Coach position. Why haven’t we heard anything about WR Coaches? Is it possible that with Ward as a quasi-coach, Tomlin as a former WR Coach, and Bruce Arians previous position (prior to OC) being WR Coach, they are not going to hire anyone and Bruce Arians will hold a dual hat as OC/WR coach? Just a thought on which I will expand in the next paragraph.
Kugler’s Future with the Steelers – Let’s get back to Kugler, the future of our OL. I have a question for you, could there be more in store for this up and comer? What do Mike Sherman and Andy Reid have in common, they both as college OL coaches who became some of the great offensive minds in the NFL. Could Sean Kugler have a similar career path and be a future offensive mastermind? Did the Front Office like what he brought to the table as a developer of Pro Bowl Lineman as well as his potential as an OC? This brings me to my most important point, although this is probably just the offseason conspiracy theorist in me. I do believe Bruce Arians is on a short leash this season, but I do not think he would get fired in season. However, a demotion could very well be possible, especially if he was dual tasked as the WR Coach as well. He wouldn’t willingly do it I am sure, but putting him up in the booth providing feedback during games would mitigate some of the tension on the sidelines. Maybe Tomlin/Colbert have already discussed with each other the possibility of removing the play calling from Arians and giving it to Kugler. In all actuality, this wouldn’t even require the removal of the title until the end of the season, and then Arians could just look for work elsewhere if the Steelers decide to part ways with him at the end of his contract this season. If Kugler is an up and coming offensive mind, as I am speculating (and this is completely unfounded, just a theory) we could already have an in house solution for Arians’ possible replacement. (Or you can try to convince Mike Sherman to leave Texas A&M).
Offseason needs – OK, so this horse has been beaten to death, but I will hopefully provide some additional information to support my theories (which differ greatly from many of you). First off, let’s look at this seasons production from each unit, etc. I only listed Free agents I will cover predraft.
QB – Big Ben continues to progress but needs to learn to throw it away every once in a while or his career will be shortened. Dennis Dixon proved himself a very capable backup despite the boneheaded play call that ended the Ravens game. A QB3 will be found via post draft Free Agency or they will try to sign Charlie Batch for the veteran’s minimum ($845,000). Another possibility is storing a third on the PS and only running with 2 on gameday.
RB – Mendy is our number 1 back and proved he is the best blocker, runner and receiver. He will be a 3 down back this season, with Moore as the back-up spelling him when necessary. Redman lovers hear me now, he is not the second coming of the Bus. Noone is. There is one Wilt Chamberlain, one Wayne Gretsky, one Mickey Mantle, and one Jerome Bettis. Some people just can’t be replicated. A man that size with those quick feet is hard to find, and I haven’t seen that from Redman. That goes for Frank Summers as well (he ain’t the tank until he proves it). We may bring in someone through the draft, but unless Andre Dixon, LeGarrette Blount, or someone huge falls to the fifth round, I don’t expect it. UFA – Willie Parker
WR – Holmes, Ward, Wallace. Enough said (Sweed, I am still hoping). Does anyone care about WR5. Stefan Logan is the most likely candidate to get more touches (Tomlin said something about utilizing him more, screw that in my opinion, Holmes is much better on screens).
TE – Heath Miller broke just about every Steelers TE record there is. Sean McHugh will be back as the H-Back having signed a 3 year deal prior to being placed on IR. David Johnson May end up our FB. Matt Spaeth has been mostly a non-factor, but aside from Heath, do any of our TEs actually catch passes. RFA – Matt Spaeth
OL – OK, here we go. Yes improved, no, still not good enough. Starks finally got the long term contract he wanted and is playing LT, which the Steelers organization and Starks said was his natural position as a left hander. Sorry, not buying it. He gets by because when he is on, he has one of the best hand punches I have seen. The Denver game was the perfect example. I thought he was going to cripple Dumervil on a couple of those plays, same with Allen against the Vikings. However, towards the end of the season his play dropped and his weight climbed. He looked huge the last couple games of the season and his feet looked slow. We still need a real LT, which will solve our other problem. Colon surprised us all, but he is a Pro Bowl guard playing RT. Center play was up and down, but that may be because we have all grown up with that being the anchor of the line. Kemo improved, hopefully that can continue. I still have faith in Kraig Urbik who I loved coming out of Wisconsin. Kugler, work your magic. RFA – Darnell Stapleton, Willie Colon (without a new CBA by March 1, he has less than 6 years so he is an RFA).
DL – Aaron Smith’s return, Ziggy’s development. Things could be worse. Eason was the surprise here, showing some real ability as a quality back-up. Hoke is Hoke, you know what you are getting. Big Snack was devastating this year. More on him later. UFA – Hampton, Kirschke, Eason
LB – Woodley will continue to devastate the league and should be as big a priority as Holmes in getting resigned this offseason. Harrison dropped off a little, but that is expected after the career year in 2009. Timmons looked timid at times against the run, but scares the crap out of QBs when he blitzes. He is the fastest guy to the QB I have seen since Greg Lloyd, but he hits like Kevin Greene. Farrior needs to get back to 225 lbs like 2009, although not sure how much that will help. With the uncapped year, might be a good idea to cut this year, eat the $3 million left on the prorated signing bonus, and resign at a friendly number. If a new CBA is agreed on before the 2011 season, I don’t see them keeping him on with a $3.85 million cap hit to possibly be a back-up.
CB – Ike got blamed for having to cover for everyone else. He is still a great corner, who can’t catch. Big Play Willie Gay proved he was a nickel back. Deshea is still Deshea. He ends up on the field before the end of the season every year. If he comes back for the veteran minimum, I think the Steelers will take him back, otherwise, thank you for everything. The rookies better show up next season.
S – Troy will be healthy and hopefully stay that way. Carter, gone. Mundy, show something. Clark, split decision. To stay or to go. UFA – Clark and Carter
ST – Sepulveda was better than Berger, but not quite 2 time Ray Guy Award winner. Jeff Reed had one bad game, and can’t tackle. Still money for the most part, but how much money is he worth when he kicks off to the 10 yard line and has a few off field incidents a year. We will see. UFA – Jeff Reed
For previous Views from the SteelCage