I have been waiting till the end of the season to write this. This is as good a time as ever. Looking back at Tomlin's tenure I had noticed something that perhaps most of us took for granted. First, let me say as a coach I like Tomlin overall. Yes, he has made some mistakes, but like Cowher and Noll they overcame them. Having said that let me explain my observation.
in 2006 the Steelers coach Cowher exited and in 2007 Tomlin took over. Looking at the roster back then and their starting 22 on offense and defense the team surprisingly had not changed much until this past off season.
In 2006 Colon and Harrison were on the roster as well Foote who later rejoins the team. At the end of last season the Steelers had on their starting 22-14 players. After the departure of Hines, Aaron and Farrior that number drops to 11 of the 22 as players who played for Cowher. Now admittedly in 2006 Colon and Harrison were not starting significantly. The team for the most part still looked like a Cowher team. How much of that was due to front office management decisions is anyone's guess. W can say these guys were that good and draftees could not unseat the starters. If so, then a lot of those guys should potentially be playing in the league and contributing elsewhere.
In 2007 the notable draftees were Timmons and Woodley, since then we can say notable additions that have made an impact were Mendenhall, Wallace, Pouncey, Brown. 4 players since the 07 draft.
As I look at this I think the Steelers over the past 5 years have not really hit on their draft picks. Is this a front office issue or the Coach's, or both? This year we can nook at all the injuries, as we do every year and say...wait till next year. The injuries are part of the game. Some years more so than others. The defense was compromised at times, so much so that they could not hold up when they had to. The offense seemed to lack depth and direction. Since the attrition of Cowhers starting 22 I think the persona of this team has softened. They no longer, have the fear factor. In the end, 11/22 players were coached by Cowher in 2006. As a comparator I looked at a team that has consistently played well, it was a random choice without a coaching change. I will admit that I did not look at all 31 teams but wanted a team with a similar pedigree as the Steelers. The Patriots roster comparing 2006 and this years revealed only 4 players on the roster amongst the starting 22- Mankins, Welker, Wilfork, and Brady. Food for thought.