Sep 27, 2013; London, United Kingdom; Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin at practice at the London Wasps rugby club practice facility at the Twyford Avenue sports ground in preparation for the NFL International Series game against the Minnesota Vikings. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh Steelers Bye Week: Who's Seat Is Getting Warm?

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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?

Toddy Haley

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.

3639-jack bicknell jrFormer 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.

Dick LeBeau

Nov 25, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau yells on the sidelines in the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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

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?


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  • Dom DiTolla

    All four should be on the hot seat, but I think that Haley will be the only one issued walking papers at the end of the year.

    Bicknell, Jr. will probably be granted one more season to see if he can develop any of the younger players, and Tomlin will probably get until the end of 2014 or 2015 to correct things as well. If Tomlin bombs in 2014 like he has this fall, then he could be shown the door though.

    As far as LeBeau is concerned, they probably can’t fire him and he’ll probably have to quit if they want a new defensive coordinator. Then again, they “retired” Bruce Arians, but I’m intrigued to see how they handle LeBeau after this year.

    I will say that if LeBeau decides to stay past this season that I hope that Keith Butler and Carnell Lake find defensive coordinator jobs elsewhere just to spite the organization for keeping the 76 year-old on the staff.

  • Carl Eagan

    I agree all 4 should be on the hot seat and I think it should be Tomlin first for the stated reasons as well as the lack of team discipline and his inability to prepare the team to play what once were lesser opponents but instead he has made the Steeler’s the lesser opponent. Colbert isn’t helping either, remember it wasn’t until Tomlin became coach when they changed Colbert’s title. That was because after Donahue, Cowher was given control over player personnel and he drafted the players Colbert I imagine had input but not the final say. The team of Colbert and Tomlin haven’t done as well.

  • sean mcmartin

    Thank you for the accurate description of Tomlin. The head coach is supposed to coach up the talent and motivate them to win until they live and breathe it.
    Tomlin is no motivator of men.

  • Ken Strong

    I think Haley should be let go immediately. The offense has gone down hill since his arrival. And I agree the offense has become predictable, a good part of the reason the offense can’t score.

  • Joe Longo

    All four of them should be in trouble!