Following a 9-6-1 season that saw the Pittsburgh Steelers fail to reach the playoffs since the first time since 2013, Head Coach Mike Tomlin is facing more pressure than perhaps he ever has before in his head coaching career, and that may well include those both on the outside and on the inside.
That possibility seemed to be reflected in his end-of-season remarks during his final press conference on the Wednesday following his team’s meaningless victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 17 that proved to be not enough to return to the postseason.
The way that he spoke was of a man more humbled than he has come to expect, and one who understands that perhaps changes are necessary. We haven’t seen a lot of obviously meaningful changes so far, however, merely the dismissal of two position coaches whose contracts were up.
Both of those positions coaches have been with the team for a handful of years and just sent second-year players to the Pro Bowl, including Joey Porter as the outside linebackers coach. T.J. Watt’s 13 sacks and six forced fumbles this year were the most by any Steeler in the past decade and earned him a Pro Bowl nod.
Said Watt while at the Pro Bowl this past week of the decision, “it took me by shock, yeah, I’m not going to lie. But I stand with the upper-hand at the facility and just have to go with it”. The 2017 first-round draft pick said that Porter was a “great asset” to his growth as a young player.
The youngest Watt brother is the third outside linebacker that the Steelers have drafted in the first round since 2013, but Porter has not been able to have nearly the success with either Jarvis Jones or Bud Dupree as Watt has seen in his first two seasons, notching 20 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and an interception during that time.
Number 90 also said that he has not been told who will coach the outside linebackers in 2019. The position is currently vacant, ostensibly the only remaining vacancy after the team hired a new running backs coach and promoted a new offensive line coach from within.
It had previously been reported that the team was considering giving the responsibilities to Keith Butler, their defensive coordinator, which would not exactly be out of character. They promoted quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner to offensive coordinator in 2018 and allowed him to keep his previous title as well. Prior to being defensive coordinator, Butler coached the linebackers for over a decade.
How much of an asset was Porter to Watt’s development? The only thing we can go by is what we see on the field and what we hear people say. Hopefully whoever the next outside linebackers coach is will have success with more than just one player.