The Pittsburgh Steelers brought in some names this week that grabbed the attention of the media and fans, though half of them really shouldn’t have, according to Mike Tomlin. While it was obviously significant that they brought in kickers to compete for Chris Boswell’s job, Shaun Suisham’s presence, the head coach said, was nothing uncommon.
Nor was the visit of veteran linebackers coach Jim Herrmann, who spent time observing the Steelers’ practice this past week. Following some notable defensive struggles, particularly in the fourth quarter, and with many itchy trigger fingers when it comes to the likes of defensive coordinator Keith Butler and the linebackers coaches, Hermann’s presence raised some eyebrows.
“It’s really just allowing an unemployed coach to visit. I don’t necessarily view it as helping with practice, to be honest with you”, Tomlin told Bob Labriola before yesterday’s game. He said that outside personnel being brought in for observation is a common practice in ‘old school’ football, and it rarely draws much of any attention.
“Visiting coaches are part of old-school ball. We’ve brought in Monte Kiffin in the past. We brought in a guy named Don Yanowsky, which probably didn’t register on the radar because the name isn’t familiar”, he pointed out. “We’ve also had a special teams assistant in here twice already this year by the name of Todd Yoder. Again, that probably didn’t register because that’s not a household name”.
Tomlin’s point is fair, but there also tends to be smoke when there’s fire, and there’s no denying that the Steelers’ defense has been smoking lately—in the pejorative sense. Butler has been receiving a lot of criticism and fielding weekly questions about his job security from the local media.
He said that he and Herrmann have a history. While they never worked together directly, he described Herrmann as “on that same speaker circuit together, two young guys cutting our teeth in the profession”. Herrmann was with Michigan while Tomlin was coaching at the University of Cincinnati.
So while he may have an established resume which most notably includes a Super Bowl championship during his time with the New York Giants between 2009 and 2015, that doesn’t mean he is interviewing for a job.
He most recently worked with the Indianapolis Colts, where he coached Jon Bostic last season during what was the best year of his professional career, making 14 starts in 14 games. Bostic has been a starter for the Steelers for most of the year but looks to have been surpassed by L.J. Fort in recent weeks.