There are two Steelers coaching notes worth looking at that took place on Thursday.
In what is really an odd move for any team in the NFL the Steelers fired special teams coach Al Everest. The reasoning behind the sudden exit is unknown. It is an odd occurrence because teams tend to not fire staff this late into the preseason. The release of players – sure. But the release of coaches who are making evaluations of players for a month and a half – really strange.
Special teams has been a plague upon a team that has a tradition of dominating defenses, a solid running game, and winning. I can’t help but pull on my hair when I witness a punt or kick return being run back for a score at a crucial part in the game – usually leaving the Steelers on the wrong end of the scoreboard and me with a little less hair. The team ranked 25th in net punting, 21st in punt returns and 17th in kickoff returns last season. Not great numbers. So out goes Everest, and I guess better late than never. Former assistant special teams coach Amos Jones replaces Everest.
It’s been well known that Todd Haley’s offense has been virtually unknown for most of the preseason. Haley is keeping a tight lid on this offense by using play selection that Ben Roethlisberger has called ‘vanilla.’ The Steelers have been a rather run heavy team the last two games with Batch and Dwyer getting most of the carries for the team. Roethlisberger has not had many drop backs, yet has 10 sacks in two games. And, perhaps that’s the reason why Haley has not tasked Big Ben with many pass attempts. Running the ball with a smattering of passing might be his way of getting the offensive line to settle in and get comfortable working with each other – especially rookies David DeCastro and Mike Adams. It’s been a little dicey even with this kind of strategy, but hopefully as the Steelers become more balanced in play calling, the offense will be able to fire on all cylinders.
We learned today that the Steelers are preparing for the Buffalo Bills as if it were a regular season game. That means two things – we should see less vanilla and more wrinkles in the offensive schemes and we should see the 1st team for a longer period of time. Spectators of the upcoming game should be warned, however, that I seriously doubt we’ll see all of Haley’s tricks and formations. With an offensive line that is still working out the kinks, the element of uncertainty on the part of opposing defenses will be an advantage the Steelers won’t want to lose any time soon.
It will be exciting to see an even further glimpse into the Steelers of 2012. I personally hope the 1st team only plays for the first half and we get to see more of ‘the potential 53.’ I’d like to see Jason Ford get some more carries, and it would be great to see some of the younger tight ends and receivers get in on the action. We’ll probably see some Byron Leftwich, but perhaps not if Jerrod Johnson gets a large chunk of the 2nd half.