Although it was once the case that Mike Tomlin’s coaching staffs were marked by unusual stability, that hasn’t been the case nearly as much in recent years for the Pittsburgh Steelers, as there have been at least a couple of changes to the staff every year, in some form or fashion for the past several years.
Entering the 2019 season, for example, the Steelers said goodbye to Mike Munchak, who had been their offensive line coach since 2014. They also brought in Eddie Faulkner at running back coach, parted with Joey Porter as the outside linebackers coach, and added Teryl Austin as a senior defensive assistant.
This year saw even more change, including Ike Hilliard and Matt Canada being brought in to serve as the wide receivers and quarterbacks coaches, respectively. Hilliard fills a position that was vacated with the untimely passing of Daryl Drake, while Canada’s addition allows Randy Fichtner to focus exclusively on his offensive coordinator responsibilities.
With these changes being made over the past couple of years, particularly on the offensive side of the ball—new position coaches everywhere except tight end—Tomlin was asked about the significance that will have going forward when he spoke to reporters yesterday, and how the new pieces fit in to their fabric.
“You know, I acknowledge that change and transition is not only a component of play, but also a component of coaching”, he said. Sometimes you lose quality people and you get a chance to acquire others. So, some of the veteran expertise that we might’ve lost in a Munchak, we probably picked up on the other side of the ball in a Teryl Austin, if you will”.
“There’s strengths and weaknesses of staffs just like there of football teams and so I don’t worry necessarily about specific areas, just the totality of us needs to be what our team needs us to be”, he continued. “And I’m excited about this year’s new mix and the strengths that they bring and also I’m cautious about adjusting to some of the things that we might’ve lost through transition. I think that’s just a component of staff development, just like it is team development when you lose and acquire players and so forth”.
When you actually stop and look at it, the only coaches who have been stable over the past five years have been James Daniel, the tight ends coach, and Keith Butler, who has now been the defensive coordinator for several years since succeeding Dick LeBeau, having also previously been the linebackers coach. You can add Jerry Olsavsky heading into his sixth season as the inside linebackers coach.
Every other position coach has changed hands within the past few years, whether that was Karl Dunbar preplacing John Mitchell as the defensive line coach or Tom Bradley coming in to coach the defensive backs—with Austin subsequently added as well. The question is, with all these new pieces, will this incarnation of Tomlin’s staff find stability?