I remember in 2007 when Mike Tomlin was hired as the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach. That year, and the years following, Tomlin was fun to watch. Jovial, contrite and downright just happy to have the job.
Fast forward to 2018, and there are far fewer joking jabs with the media, and more terse and exact comments filled with grey area.
This was certainly the case at the NFL owners meetings in Florida, the first time Tomlin met with media since after his team’s deflating loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs.
Tomlin talked about rule changes, coaching changes and additions to the team’s lineup. You guessed it, all very status quo answers. But when he was asked about whether the team could see some drastic changes on the defensive side of the ball, his answers were telling.
“I’m not opposed to dramatic changes,” Tomlin told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando.
“I think that is the appropriate mentality to have,” said Tomlin of potential changes. “We may change in dramatic ways, we may not. It depends on what the totality of the variables of totality mean for us. But I think it’s great to have an attitude that’s not resistant to it.”
When Tomlin gave the aforementioned quotes, he was mainly referencing the defense. But changes could be on their way for both sides of the football. On the offensive side of the ball new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner will be working closely with Ben Roethlisberger to put their own unique stamp and spin on the team’s offensive game plans.
However, the defense is where the main changes could come. For those thinking this will likely equate to something as crazy as a switch from the 3-4 defense to the 4-3, understand base defenses are a thing of the past. Teams, especially the Steelers, rely on sub packages far more than any other time in recent memory. So, what changes would be so drastic if they wouldn’t be switching to the 4-3?
If you follow some of the film breakdown work here at BTSC, you will notice just how unique some of the Steelers’ sub packages have become, and within those packages come new roles for unique players. This impacts how the team approaches the NFL Draft, and even free agency.
Ultimately, the talk of change is great, but the reality of change is something completely different. With a player like Ryan Shazier on the field, you have some really awesome options to be creative with scheme. Without a unique athlete like Shazier on the field, you are more restricted to what they can, and cannot, do.
The Steelers already acquired a versatile weapon when they picked up Morgan Burnett in free agency, and if they can draft a few more to their arsenal they truly will have options with their schematic changes.
If they don’t add those type of players, expect less change and more of the same.