It's sadly becoming a trend. The Steelers start sliding toward the finish line, the postseason less and less likely, and the "will Dick LeBeau return next year?" stories begin appearing.
For the record, and according to comments LeBeau made to Alan Robinson of the Tribune-Review, he wants to come back in 2014.
Larry Foote even joked he'll coach until "they carry him out in a box."
If the Steelers have their leader, then collectively, other changes need to be made, both for salary cap reasons as well as deteriorating talent. Tough decisions stare the Steelers' brass square in the face this offseason, and a few surprises may be in store as well.
As Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said after last season, the players departing are members of an 8-8 team. Odds are excellent it will be worse than 8-8.
It is young, though, despite popular opinion. Rookies Jarvis Jones, Vince Williams and Shamarko Thomas all saw extensive time this season. It's rare for one defensive rookie to play a lot, but three of them, and two starters, is unheard of. They also didn't get the kind of season expected from Cortez Allen, another young player who was supposed to step into the spotlight and emerge as one of the best players on the team.
Maybe it needs another year. Maybe, in 2014, the team won't give up a shocking 11 plays of 50 yards or more (making up approximately 20 percent of all the yards they've given up this year).
What's certain, judging by past precedent, if LeBeau wants to be back, he will be back.
- NFL Week 15 picks: The 2013 season begins to wind down for half the league
- Troy Polamalu still a single meeting room guy, despite dual defensive role for Steelers
- Kelvin Beachum vs. Mike Adams in Week 15 vs. Bengals
- Play Money: Exploring Steelers WRs and NFL salary cap
- These aren't Myron Cope's Cincy Bungals anymore