A friend of mine sent this blog to me.
Thought I'd share it with the rest of you.
Even though you had to fire my dad I'm not mad atcha, Coach Tomlin
Let me start of by saying that my Dad was let go in Pittsburgh as the offensive line coach on Tuesday afternoon. That is the basis for this post. For one, I want to talk about that, but I also want to finally give open and honest commentary regarding my opinion of the Steelers team.
The Steelers got a little riled up last year after I made comments about moving Willie Colon from tackle to guard. They assumed that whatever my commentary was came straight from my dad, but that was incorrect. I watched every Steelers game over the last three years and I have more than my fair share of opinions regarding the team. Nevertheless, I decided to keep my opinions regarding the Steelers out of this forum or my football newsletter just to be on the safe side.
Now that he's been relieved of his duties, here are some of my thoughts.
On Larry Zierlein's Firing
Getting fired is part of the business in the coaching world. You can be an average coach and get put into a great position with great players and win a ton of games, but you can also be a great coach and have limited talent to work with and get fired. There are plenty of bad coaches who get fired and there are plenty of good coaches who get fired. You put your time in, you prepare, you make your sacrifices and you network with other coaches because you know that in the coaching fraternity, you will be helping others and they will be helping you. That's the way it goes in every sport and on every level. Coaches who are reading this know what I'm talking about.
What I've always been most proud of is that in my dad's 37 years of coaching he had never been fired for cause. He's been part of staffs that have been dismissed when a new head coach was brought in, but that is normal. This is the first time that he's been fired from his position and it kind of sucks because most Steeler fans know that the offensive line wasn't the problem this year. Were they a problem last year? Oh, they had some issues to be sure. This year? The mental mistakes were way down, the protection was much better and the running game improved. Somebody had to go and since Bruce Arians was able to hang on somebody had to go. He just didn't deserve it this year. The offensive line needs to get better but overall, they weren't a big part of the problem this year.
Eight Thoughts on the Steelers
1. Bruce Arians had better figure out that this team has to get back to a more physical brand of football and he better figure it out quickly. Running the ball is like body punching in boxing — it pays off later in the fight. The Steelers offensive line is built more for running the football rather than protecting the passer 40+ times.
2. Ben Roethlisberger is one of the toughest QBs I've seen out on the football field but at some point, somebody with the Steelers better get to him and force him to get rid of the ball rather than taking unnecessary hits and sacks. The Steelers don't win a Super Bowl without him last year. He's an unbelievable playmaker. However, there are times I honestly believe that he would rather take a sack than throw in incompletion. Hey Ben, QB ratings don't matter in the grand scheme of things. Mike Tomlin would much rather be in 3rd and 7 with a pass that is thrown away rather than 3rd and 13 with a sack after hanging onto the ball forever while trying to make a play.
3. This one kind of combines the first two points. I think the Steelers offense would be better off with less of Ben. Ben is one of the few playmakers at QB in the NFL, but he had way too many negative plays this year (whether it was taking sacks or throwing picks — especially in the redzone). The Steelers need to try and figure out a way to get more efficient play from Ben. Right now Ben feels a little bit like Allen Iverson in his prime. You know he can carry you and you know he is tough but his decision making isn't always the greatest and he's going to jack up too many shots. In essence, the Steelers need Ben to work on his shot selection. Fewer shots but better shots.
4. The Steelers are in need of an offensive tackle with great feet. Watching the Texans on a week to week basis I see tackles who are able to move and get the backside LBs or get across the face of DTs on zone plays. If the Steelers had a quicker-footed tackle, it would help with their running game and it would allow the Steelers to bump Willie Colon inside to RG. I know my dad disagrees with me on that and he likes Willie just fine at tackle, but Colon is a beast when it comes to pushing people off the ball in the running game and I think he could develop into an All-Pro guard who would also help the Steelers see more success in their short yardage rushing game. Colon is much better than Steeler fans think he is. Opposing defensive coordinators know that he's made huge improvements in his pass protection and he is no fun to go up against in the running game.
5. The Steelers had better make their secondary a priority in the draft and in free agency because Polamalu can't fix it all. I remember a couple of years ago when Troy Polamalu went down and the secondary got lit up then like they got lit up this year. Carter was so bad in coverage that I was surprised they kept trotting him out there. The Steelers probably need to take a good, hard look at a guy like Earl Thomas (FS) if he comes out or Joe Haden (CB) if he lasts that long. Any way you cut it, that group simply wasn't good enough and some changes need to be made at CB and safety even if it is changes within the depth.
6. As many of you might know, I am deep into the NFL Draft on this site and I thought the addition of Ziggy Hood in the first over Max Unger was a mistake. Last year's draft featured a solid group of 3-4 DEs in rounds 2-4, but Unger was a guy who could play multiple positions on the offensive line and he's tough and smart. The Steelers have proven for years that they can find talent all over the draft when it comes to the defensive side of the ball, but Unger was part of a talented group of interior linemen that included Eric Wood and Alex Mack and I think he would have been a great fit in Pittsburgh.
7. The Steelers scored a major coup when they drafted Mike Wallace. The rest of the league better get ready because by next year, they will basically be carrying around two of the better vertical threats in the league in Holmes and Wallace.
8. The Steelers need to put a halt to all of the bunch formation crap they've got going and figure out that they have the personnel to be very effective out of their two-TE sets.... especially with Wallace and Holmes on the field at the same time. Sure, it will piss Hines Ward off, but he's getting up there in years and does his best work against zone coverage rather than against man. With a 2-TE set and with vertical threats like Holmes and Wallace, safeties will be in a tough spot. They will have to worry about run support thanks to the 2 TEs but they will also fear homerun threats outside. To me, this is a way for the Steelers to get back to a more physical brand of football without sacrificing their big play potential. If the Steelers need to upgrade over Spaeth, then have at it.
Growing up an Oilers in the late 70s and early 80s I didn't hate the Steelers as much as I respected/feared them. Okay, I hated Donnie Shell, but that was because he speared Earl Campbell in the ribs. And we all know Mike Renfro was inbounds but whatever.
I mention that because I was surprised at how easy and fun it was to root for the Steelers. I'm a Texans fan first, but it was enjoyable being part of the Steelers family even if it was for three years. The Super Bowl was amazing to be a part of thanks in large part to how great the fans were. As a lifelong fan of Houston-area teams, it was really eye-opening to see the level of passion with their fans that is born out of a tradition of success. The Texans might be a young organization with very little tradition but I see some of the same passion out of many of the younger Texans fans which is exciting to me.
I will always be appreciative of the opportunity that Mike Tomlin gave my dad (and mom) and I'm happy that after going through the coaching grind for so many years, my parents were finally able to taste a level of success that is reserved for so few. To the Rooneys and Coach Tomlin, I will always be appreciative of that. I remember how heartbroken my mom looked when the Cardinals took the lead over the Steelers in the Super Bowl and things looked grim. The other look I remember was the look of elation in her eyes when Big Ben hooked up with Santonio Holmes for a TD. I know for many Steeler fans it was yet another Super Bowl win but for my family it was much, much more.
My dad would get into the office every work day at around 6 a.m. and get home sometime between 10:30 and 11 p.m. on most days. The hours that NFL coaches put into their jobs would astonish you. As always, he was never going to lack in preparation. I know from talking to him at times during the season that this was one of his most enjoyable seasons as a pro coach. He really likes those offensive linemen and he appreciated how coachable they have become and how hard they've worked at eliminating mental mistakes and getting better. While I think they can get better and probably need to make some personnel changes at a couple of spots, I saw a vast amount of improvement in technique and overall play from the first year my dad stepped in to the last game of the year this season. The Steelers offensive line was responsible for 23 of the 50 sacks this year. They have nothing to be ashamed of and they know it.
The Steelers have some issues that they need to address on both sides of the ball from a personnel standpoint and I think they've lost their identity on offense. As long as Ben Roethlisberger is at QB and as long as you let him throw it as often as he does, Steeler fans had better get ready for a ton of sacks. With all of that said, I'm glad my Dad had the honor of coaching for the Pittsburgh Steelers and I wish Mike Tomlin luck in the future.
Posted by Lance Zierlein at January 6, 2010 04:37 PM
Link Blog by Lance Zierlein