2022 Offseason Questions: Why Did Steelers Make Change At WR Coach?

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season is over, already eliminated from the postseason after suffering a 42-21 loss at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. They just barely made the postseason with a 9-7-1 record and a little help from their friends.

This is an offseason of major change, with the retirement of Ben Roethlisberger, the possible retirement of general manager Kevin Colbert, and the decisions about the futures of many important players to be made, such as Joe Haden, Stephon Tuitt, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and others.

Aside from exploring their options at the quarterback position, the top global priority, once again, figures to be addressing the offensive line, which they did not do quite adequately enough a year ago. Dan Moore Jr. looks like he may have a future as a full-time starter, but Kendrick Green was clearly not ready. Chukwuma Okorafor is heading into free agency, as is Trai Turner.

These are the sorts of topics among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked. There is rarely a concrete answer, but this is your venue for exploring the topics we present through all their uncertainty.

Question: Why did the Steelers make a change at the wide receiver coach position?

The fact that Keith Butler retired was not surprising, so Teryl Austin replacing him went without batting an eye. Likewise, nobody should have been taken aback by the news of Kevin Colbert stepping back as general manager—and it certainly wouldn’t make any ripples if his replacement were in-house.

However, there were no indications suggesting that the Steelers were considering moving on from Ike Hilliard, who had been their wide receivers coach for the past two seasons. At least, we’re working under the assumption that it was the team’s decision to move on, and not the coach.

Reportedly, there was surprise when it came out that the team was hiring a new wide receivers coach, which was announced without making any mention of the fact that Hilliard was not being retained, even in the Steelers’ locker room. Brooke Pryor of ESPN reported that some players were upset over the decision—and probably by the fact that they were caught off-guard by it, as well.

In hindsight, you could line up a case, with the biggest supporting argument being the lack of progression from 2020 second-round pick Chase Claypool. Some recurring issues for Diontae Johnson, despite progress made, and the seeming static nature of James Washington’s development and role don’t widely play into his favor, either.

Again, however, there were no indications on the surface that the team had any intentions of making a change here. I hadn’t seen any complaints pretty much from anybody about the job Hilliard had done over two years—taking over a very young and inexperienced group in 2020—until we learned that he wasn’t being brought back.

Then all of a sudden everybody had something to say. But I’m looking forward to hearing what head coach Mike Tomlin, and perhaps offensive coordinator Matt Canada, have to say about the decision.

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