When it comes to an organization with the sort of stability that the Pittsburgh Steelers demonstrate, this offseason would have to constitute their version of a shake-up. I would use the phrase ‘cleaning house’, but the reality is that nobody was actually fired, and only one move was made to part with a coach that was not retiring or resigning his post.
But whatever you want to call it, the Steelers have just gone through their most significant changeover in staff since head coach Mike Tomlin was brought in in 2007, and within the changeover to Tomlin from Bill Cowher, there was necessarily a lot of moving parts, most notable Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm departing.
And for all we know, they may well not yet be done tinkering, though certainly the bulk of the movements have already been made, if any yet are left in the tank.
It started with the big decision of the offseason, which was to move on from Todd Haley at offensive coordinator. Having served for the past six seasons, and with the past four seasons representing four of the top six scoring seasons in team history, the decision to move on from him, not renewing his contract, was as much or more to do with personal relationships than on-field performances.
And of course his replacement was also a decision made as much or more to do with personal relationships than anything else, promoting quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner to that role, who has a great relationship with Ben Roethlisberger. The thinking is that this should help preserve continuity in the positive aspects of the offense while offering needed change in others.
With Richard Mann retiring as their wide receivers coach, the Steelers this time went outside of the organization and brought in Darryl Drake, who most recently held the same post with the Arizona Cardinals, but that franchise is undergoing an overhaul as well, with Bruce Arians retiring.
Then Carnell Lake, the defensive backs coach, resigned, and he was quickly replaced with Tom Bradley, whose experience comes entirely at the collegiate level. Tomlin is not shy about such hires, having previously done so with Fichtner, whom he actually coached with.
The surprise of the offseason was the news that they hired a new defensive line coach in Karl Dunbar, as John Mitchell has been the most stable part of the coaching staff, here for over two decades. But Mitchell is transitioning full-time into the role of assistant head coach.
That is three new faces on the staff, all coming from outside of the organization, even if there are some ties here and there on the periphery, and, in all, there are four coaches who are in new roles. That is substantial change for a team like the Steelers.
And that does not even include the addition of Blaine Stewart as a coaching assistant, who joins Daniel Martin Rooney as one of two on the staff. Will we see more moves made to the coaching staff before all is said and done?