We've discussed three external (some out-of-the-box) possibilities for the Steelers vacant offensive coordinator position (Rip Scherer, Tom Clements and Mike Sullivan), and with Clements' promotion to Green Bay's offensive coordinator job, and no real strong connection between the Steelers and either Scherer or Sullivan, the fact the Steelers have waited as long as they have to hire their next offensive leader could be explained rather simply;
They're waiting to see if running backs coach Kirby Wilson, who was badly burned in a house fire Jan. 6, will be able to assume the role this season.
Wilson began physical rehabilitation Feb. 1, and the team announced on its web site Wilson is in serious but stable condition in the Trauma Burn Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
His success as a coach has been noted ever since he was hired in 2007 to replace the legendary Dick Hoak, who retired after 35 seasons as a coach with the Steelers.
The talent of the Steelers' running backs hasn't missed a beat. Wilson has guided 2008 first round pick Rashard Mendenhall to 3,367 yards in 51 NFL games. Probably more impressively, though, Wilson has overseen the Steelers' amazing eye for running back talent in the last decade. Several undrafted running backs have caught on with the Steelers and have been effective, if not outstanding, players. Starting with Willie Parker before Wilson arrived, the Steelers have had Carey Davis, Gary Russell, Isaac Redman and John Clay all at least contribute positively to the team, despite none of them having been drafted.
A coach's ability to take raw, unproven talent (Redman) along with prize draft picks (Mendenhall) goes a long way in advancing his career. Wilson clearly has shown the ability to do that, and with the front office's stated desire of getting back to the ground game, Wilson becomes an obvious candidate for the offensive coordinator job.
If he's able to do so, of course.
It's pure speculation, but there are four possible reasons why the Steelers haven't hired their offensive coordinator yet; They are waiting to speak to or interview a coach on either the Giants or the Patriots (waiting until after the Super Bowl is over); they were waiting on Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements and Green Bay to make a decision on him (he was hired Thursday); they haven't found the guy they're looking for yet; they're waiting to see if Wilson will be able to coach in 2012.
Waiting for a Super Bowl coach is possible, as is the simple concept of not forcing the decision and hiring someone they don't like. Clements was never a likely candidate after former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin accepted the head coaching job in Miami (Clements was the obvious choice to replace him).
The most likely, though, is they're waiting to see if Wilson will be able to handle the role this season. Outside of the announcement that he's started rehab, there isn't anything suggesting he will or won't be able to coach in 2012.
Keep in mind, also, they decided to move on from former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians knowing Wilson's condition. That suggests if he was the leading candidate, they either had faith Wilson would recover, or they have another option in mind in the event he won't be able to assume the role this year.
That raises the possibility they could find someone to keep the seat warm for Wilson. Would a current member of the staff serve as offensive coordinator until Wilson is able? It could end up being the direction the Steelers take.