The journey toward Super Bowl LII ended far too prematurely for the Pittsburgh Steelers, sending them into offseason mode before we were ready for it. But we are in it now, and are ready to move on, through the Combine, through free agency, through the draft, into OTAs, and beyond.
We have asked and answered a lot of questions over the years and will continue to do so, and at the moment, there seem to be a ton of questions that need answering. A surprise early exit in the postseason will do that to you though, especially when it happens in the way it did.
You can rest assured that we have the questions, and we will be monitoring developments all throughout the offseason process, all the way down to Latrobe. Pending free agents, possible veteran roster cuts, contract extensions, pre-draft visits, pro days, all of it will have its place when the time arises.
Question: Will Darryl Drake or Karl Dunbar have a bigger impact on the performance of his position group this season?
The Steelers hired three new position coaches this offseason, the most significant amount of change that they have made in years. Due to one retirement, one resignation, and one transition to another coaching role, all three additions were made necessary to a degree.
Darryl Drake comes over from Arizona as a veteran wide receivers coach to replace the retired Richard Mann. With John Mitchell moving full-time to assistant head coach, the team hired Karl Dunbar, a veteran at the pro and college levels, as defensive line coach. And Tom Bradley was hired from the college ranks to take over for Carnell Lake in the secondary.
I did not include Bradley in this conversation because, let’s face it, he is far and away going to be the most popular answer. And probably the ‘correct’ answer as well. So let’s focus on the other two new coaches.
Both Drake and Dunbar have talent to work with, with a mix of veterans and younger players. Each have a first-team All-Pro in Antonio Brown and Cameron Heyward, respectively. Drake’s group does skew younger with the likes of JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Washington, but Stephon Tuitt (even heading into year five), Javon Hargrave, and rookie Joshua Frazier are on the young side.
In both cases, the Steelers have swapped a pretty hard-nosed veteran coach with another coach not dissimilar. Drake definitely has a lot of similarities to Mann. Dunbar literally was coached by Mitchell, so he learned some things about coaching directly from his predecessor, who is still of course on hand.
Were I forced to give an answer, I would probably opt for Drake just because of the significant role younger players like the aforementioned will be asked to play. Washington is going to play a lot of snaps, and Drake will have been his only coach. Frazier has to make the team.