Week 5 for the Pittsburgh Steelers is a bye week, and it will probably be by far their most mistake free week of football all season. Although, some might argue that the Levi Brown trade was a pretty big one.
The Steelers’ spiral from playoff contenders to looking from the outside in to starting a season 0-4 may not be causing head coach Mike Tomlin (or anyone belonging to the organization for that matter) to panic, but most of us in Steeler Nation are beginning to sweat bullets. Art Rooney II seems content about letting the ship continue to sail without any course corrections, and so no single person’s job may be in jeopardy.
However, let’s pretend that the owner-in-chief is fired up and peeved off papa. At this point in the season, who is on the proverbial hot seat?
Let’s get the easy target out of the way. Haley has been doomed since his name was announced as the new offensive coordinator last season. Poor attitude. Can’t relate to the players. Stubborn. He was supposed to inject a faster paced offense that (hopefully) ditched the bubble screen and had a better red zone efficiency than predecessor Bruce Arians. Haley has done little to improve the offense. He received somewhat of a pass last season being ‘the new guy,’ but little has changed and the struggles continue. The bubble screen has become a running joke amongst diehard Steeler fans. The play calling remains stale and predictable – 1st & 10: run, 2nd & long: run, 3rd & long: pass. Despite putting up 27 points against a bad Vikings defense, the Steelers rank 26th in points and 29th in rushing yards per game (58.0 yds). If things don’t improve over the next few weeks – better run blocking, better pass blocking, and scoring some TD’s when inside the 20 yard line – then Haley’s seat will only get warmer and warmer (even though Haley may not be largely to blame)
Jack Bicknell, Jr.
Former O-line coach Sean Kugler left to head coach UTEP, which gave the Steelers an opportunity to bring in a solid coach who could really get the young talent groomed to start and make a positive impact. The Steelers went with Bicknell who previously coached with the Chiefs and Giants. Bicknell came in and the great mind merge took place between Bicknell, Haley, and Tomlin. The wheels were set in motion for the zone run blocking. Steeler Nation was intrigued with this change and some (including myself) felt that the young, slimmed down, and faster line would do well with this type of scheme. The Steelers used the zone scheme…. once. And during that one time, OG David DeCastro fell on teammate Maurkice Pouncey’s lower leg and blew out the Pro-Bowler’s knee. They have yet to run the zone blocking scheme since. The line consists of a revolving left tackle, a yet to be proven right tackle, and more band-aids than my medicine cabinet. These are young guys for the most part, but they can’t be naturally that bad and they? The Steelers have become desperate and brought in a vet from Pittsburgh West (Arizona) by the name of Levi Brown. No one is quite sure of Levi’s role on the team – not even the guy Brown’s supposed to protect, Ben Roethlisberger, knows quite sure how Levi will fit into this whole mess.
I don’t need to tell you that LeBeau has been one of the best defensive coordinators to ever coach the game. I don’t need to tell you that he is solely responsible for revolutionizing how defenses attacked the offense. I love LeBeau, but perhaps his time as leading this team into the next five years of Steeler football is all but done. His schemes have been broken down by opposing offenses. His schemes are so complicated that it takes a two year learning curve before a rookie out of college can have a full grasp of the defense and start on defense. LeBeau is part of what has been lost in the Steelers’ “nasty.” Once a top defense in the league, the old mixed with the inexperienced has caused inconsistency and emboldened offenses. Is any of this worth LeBeau getting the boot or leave a la the Bruce Arians route? I’m not convinced, but his name is worth a mention in a list of people who currently don’t sit well in the eyes of Steeler Nation.
Mike Tomlin has had some success, but he’s also been at the helm as this team has spiraled down the last three seasons. Tomlin has taken heavy criticism over the last 24 months and little is being done about it. His cool calm sound byte’y demeanor – once praised as a no nonsense tell it like it is – is annoying and now laughable. The head coach is responsible for preparing the entire football team week in and week out. The head coach is to make sound game time decisions involving personnel and clock management. The head coach is meant to make the hard decisions that may not be popular but are for the betterment of the team. The head coach is to work with the GM to assess prospects and make good draft picks. Tomlin has done none of this or at the very least has fallen short in every category. Whether you agree with me or not on those points, the buck always stops with the head coach. The team is hemorrhaging and Tomlin can’t or won’t stop the bleeding. Even if it’s Haley’s fault or LeBeau’s or even if the talent just isn’t there – that’s all on the head coach. That’s what he was hired to deal with. It is his cross to bear.
So of these four – who do you think is on the hot seat?