Dale Lolley, of the Observer-Reporter and WDVE -- as well as the NFL From the Sidelines blog -- is spending his time at St. Vincent College right now, and on Monday he observed head coach Mike Tomlin doing something interesting during the second day of the Steelers' training camp practices: he was working directly with the secondary on some Tampa-2 concepts.
With Troy Polamalu freelancing for most of his career, rare was the use of any variation of the Cover-2 scheme. As Lolley points out, though, Polamalu's retirement -- and with longtime defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau moving on to Tennessee -- now is as good a time as any for the switch.
What is most curious, though, is Tomlin directly working with the secondary, or any single position group, for that matter. Typically, he has left that to his coordinators and the position coaches.
To quote legendary author S.E. Hinton, writer of The Outsiders and Rumblefish: that was then, this is now.
One thing that would be easy to miss with the change in defensive coordinators is that Dick LeBeau was, himself, once a very gifted cornerback. In fact, his numbers were arguably good enough to get him into the Hall of Fame without even having to take into account his illustrious coaching career: 62 interceptions, nine fumble recoveries and four touchdowns. Carnell Lake may be the secondary coach, but LeBeau brought plenty of positional knowledge of his own.
His departure, though, combined with Lake's relative lack of coaching experience, may have created a perfect storm, of sorts, for Tomlin to get elbows-deep into coaching the secondary again. He was, after all, the defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay. Tampa, as in the "Tampa-2" defense, not to mention a defensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings before being hired as the Steelers' head coach in 2007.
What is the difference between the different coverage schemes? The number after the word 'cover' refers to how many defensive backs will be dropping back into a deep zone. These defensive backs could be a safety or cornerback, but a Cover-1 defense would have one deep defensive back, usually a safety, while others play underneath. Cover-2 would have two DBs playing deep, and so on.
So the Steelers look to possibly be making a switch to running more Cover-2 defense in 2015, and are being coached by someone who has used the Cover-2 often in his coaching career.
It's so perfect, it's almost easy to overlook it.