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Steelers Report Card: Grading Pittsburgh’s coaching for the 2018 season

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BTSC grades the 2018 Steeler Coaching Staff performance.

Carolina Panthers v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

The 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers started the season as a Super Bowl contender with issues and ended up as a playoff outcast with the nation’s best psychoanalysts itching to get them on their respective sofas. BTSC will attempt the difficult task of objectively grading a team that squandered a playoff ticket and a chance a5 a championship.

Mike Tomlin - Head Coach

A 9-6-1 record was a disappointing result for a team that was a preseason favorite. Missing the playoffs by losing four of six was unacceptable. Tomlin was tasked with trying to keep together a team with some me-first players that divided the team. But in the end, stubbornness to adjust midgame, poor clock management, poor replay challenges and questionable decisions aided in a rough season in Pittsburgh. The seat is heating up. Hopefully Tomlin can cool it down with a good 2018.

Grade: C-

Poll

What grade would you assign Mike Tomlin for his 2018 coaching performance?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A
    (7 votes)
  • 4%
    B
    (51 votes)
  • 19%
    C
    (228 votes)
  • 46%
    D
    (545 votes)
  • 28%
    F
    (333 votes)
1164 votes total Vote Now

John Mitchell - Assistant Head Coach

At 25 years, Mitchell is the longest-tenured coach in Steel City. After a great career mentoring the D-line also, Mitchell oversees development among the staff, works with current and former players in career development and assists Tomlin in community related events.

Grade: A

Randy Fichtner - Offensive Coordinator

Fichtner presided over an offense that ended the year ranked fourth in the league with 403.3 ypg and had a 26.6 points per game (ppg). However, Coach Randy didn’t seem to corral Ben Roethlisberger and his offense failed to close out games. It wasn’t too bad, but the talent-rich offense needed to score much more.

Grade: B-

Poll

What grade would you assign OC Randy Fichtner for his 2018 coaching performance?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    A
    (53 votes)
  • 49%
    B
    (506 votes)
  • 37%
    C
    (383 votes)
  • 6%
    D
    (69 votes)
  • 1%
    F
    (17 votes)
1028 votes total Vote Now

James Saxon - Running Backs Coach

Saxon coached the second-worst ranked rushing attack in the league. But he was without Le’Veon Bell the entire season, James Conner for three games and the running game had one of the lowest amount of attempts in the league. The unit was not able to close out games. He was fired last week.

Grade: C

Darryl Drake - Wide Receivers Coach

Antonio Brown’s 1,297 yards, 104 receptions and 15 TDs combined with JuJu Smith-Schuster’s 111 catches for 1,426 yards and 6 TDs gave the Steelers two elite WR1’s and we’re the first duo in team lore to both have over 1200 yards in the same campaign. However, the duo had virtually no help as Ryan Switzer, Justin Hunter and James Washington couldn’t seize the WR3 role. That is partially on Drake.

Grade: B

Mike Munchak - Offensive Line Coach

PFF ranked ‘The Munch Bunch’ as the top O-Line for 2018, with no individual starter ranking lower than 61st in the NFL. The unit allowed only 24 sacks. That’s a sack every 28.7 passing attempts, second in the NFL. He did it with three Pro Bowl selections, but the HOFer is a genius in developing lineman and the Steelers never missed a beat when a starter was injured. His talents and leadership will be missed as he heads to Denver.

Grade: A+

James Daniel - Tight Ends Coach

The TE duo of Jesse James (423 yards on 30 catches) and Vance McDonald (610 yards on 50 catches) were a reliable unit for the Steelers, but only contributed 13 catches in the last quarter of the season. The Vanimal (McDonald) and the Outlaw (James) combined for 80 grabs for 1,053 yards. It seemed the unit could have done more though.

Grade: B-

Keith Butler - Defensive Coordinator

While the stats weren’t incredibly bad, the scheming was terrible. The defense squandered leads down the stretch. The team was sixth in the league in total yards allowed at 327.2 yards-per-game and tied for the league lead with 52 sacks. Ranked tenth and sixth respectively against the pass (231.1 ypg) and run (96.1), the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Seven interceptions and a -11 turnover ratio had the team ranked 28th in both of those categories. Butler’s defense was also middle of the pack (tied for 16th) in points-per-game with 22.5 ppg allowed. Most disconcerting was the losses of leads in four of their final six games that led to losses. True that the offense let them down with turnovers, but in the fourth quarter down-the-stretch...they bent and broke. The scheming was horrendous with linebackers covering wide receivers early-and-often and going stretches without pressuring whatsoever.

Grade: C-

Poll

What grade would you assign DC Keith Butler for his 2018 coaching performance?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    B
    (17 votes)
  • 15%
    C
    (164 votes)
  • 46%
    D
    (509 votes)
  • 36%
    F
    (401 votes)
1092 votes total Vote Now

Karl Dunbar - Defensive Line Coach

Dunbar’s front three was the class of the defense. With 20 sacks from the starters, Dunbar led a fine squad.

Grade: B

Joey Porter - Outside Linebackers Coach

Despite T.J. Watt garnering 12 sacks, Porter’s unit wasn’t great. Joey couldn’t get Bud Dupree going and rumors of the coach dividing the locker room arose. Porter was let go at season’s end.

Grade: C-

Jerry Olsavsky - Inside Linebackers Coach

It’s hard to fault Olsavsky for the lack of talent of the unit. Losing the best defender (Ryan Shazier) on the squad and only bringing Jon Bostic to replace him is more on the front office than Jerry O. Vince Williams seemed exposed. However, LJ Fort played better than expected, that points to Olsavsky.

Grade: C+

Tom Bradley - Defensive Backs Coach

Despite the talent of Joe Haden, Sean Davis and Mike Hilton...Bradley’s first year at the helm of the secondary was not good. Artie Burns regressed and Terrell Edmunds was fair under Bradley. Worse, the unit only had a combined six interceptions. Unacceptable.

Grade: D

Special Teams Coach - Danny Smith Jr.

PFF ranked the guys coached by Danny Smith Jr. 29th in the league. The unit led the league in ST penalties. Ryan Switzer was brought in to jumpstart the return game, but that didn’t happen. The team ranked 31st with 19.9 ypg on kickoffs and 17th with 8.1 ypg on punt returns. They ranked 5th in allowing kickoff return yards (20.8), but dead last with 14.4 punt return yards allowed. Not to mention, the horrid seasons of K Chris Boswell and Jordan Berry. How Smith Jr. remains employed is baffling.

Grade: F

Poll

What grade would you assign ST Coach Danny Smith Jr. for his 2018 coaching performance?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    B
    (9 votes)
  • 4%
    C
    (41 votes)
  • 17%
    D
    (170 votes)
  • 77%
    F
    (762 votes)
984 votes total Vote Now

Overall Grade: C-

It was a terrible end to a tumultuous, bickering season in Pittsburgh. 2019 could be make-or-break for many a Steeler coach.

Poll

What overall grade would you assign the Steeler coaches for their 2018 coaching performance?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    A
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    B
    (10 votes)
  • 17%
    C
    (181 votes)
  • 64%
    D
    (667 votes)
  • 16%
    F
    (170 votes)
1030 votes total Vote Now