There was no Black Monday for the Steelers, who change head coaches about as often as the NFL swaps commissioners. They each have had three over the past 45 seasons.
There could be some gray days ahead, however, for some Steelers assistant coaches. Unlike some past seasons, coach Mike Tomlin gave no assurances that any of his assistants would return for 2014 after consecutive 8-8 records.
“I’m not going to address any of that,” Tomlin answered when asked if both of his coordinators would return. “Any personnel issues, any staffing issues, is inappropriate. I haven’t met with the team and I haven’t met with the staff. I will at some point. Obviously, I acknowledge that change is a part of football in staff and in players. But other than that, I’m not getting into that today.”
Clark, Taylor, Heyward and Miller on missing playoffs
Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, Cameron Heyward and Heath Miller comment on the Steelers missing the 2013 playoffs. (Video by Andrew Rush; 12/30/13)
That is a far cry from when he said “I anticipate” both of his coordinators’ return after the 2011 season, and what happened later might be why Tomlin answered the way he did on the same subject this time.
Bruce Arians was forced out after the 2011 season as offensive coordinator when team president Art Rooney did not renew his contract. The Steelers issued a statement announcing Arians had “retired.”
Arians became offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts the next season and won NFL Coach of the Year for his work as the interim Colts head coach in 2012 when Chuck Pagano had to step aside for cancer treatments. The Arizona Cardinals subsequently hired Arians as head coach, and, in his first season, he coached them to a 10-6 record, doubling their victories from 2012.
So Tomlin might need some time to check with Rooney before he anticipates anything involving his staff or says so publicly.
There were reports at midseason by the NFL Network that the Steelers likely would purge their offensive coaches and Haley would be among them.
Haley, though, would seem to be secure in his job for a third season, for which he is under contract. There could be a coach or two, however, who is not.
Tomlin never has fired an offensive coordinator. He has had just one defensive coordinator after Dick LeBeau stayed on his staff from Bill Cowher’s staff. He has fired other assistants, though, including two special-teams coaches.
Others could follow over the next few weeks.
Tomlin said he has no timetable for making those decisions. As for whether linebackers coach Keith Butler is in line to replace LeBeau as defensive coordinator at some point, Tomlin said, “Again, there is no plan in place specifically, and I won’t be talking about any personnel or staffing issues in great detail today.”
Butler turned down an offer from the Colts after the 2011 season to become their defensive coordinator to stay with the Steelers. He long has been presumed to be LeBeau’s successor. LeBeau said two weeks ago that he would like to continue coaching the Steelers defense.
Several assistants left on their own accord last season to take other jobs.
Tomlin on officiating
Tomlin, a member of the NFL’s competition committee that helps shape the rules for the league, said he noticed as the play unfolded that San Diego was illegally aligned when Kansas City tried a 41-yard field goal Sunday night.
The NFL acknowledged a penalty should have been called on that play, according to ESPN, and the Chiefs should then have been given a chance to kick what would have been the winning field goal from 36 yards. Had they made it, the Steelers would have made the playoffs.
Tomlin said he has heard from the NFL about the officiating in that game.
“I have received calls, texts and emails. Those guys do a great job of communicating during difficult times. I appreciate that. But it doesn’t change what transpired.”
Tomlin said that as part of the competition committee he looks forward to rolling up his sleeves and digging in to try to improve the officiating in the league.
“Obviously, there is a lot of work that needs to be done from an officiating standpoint. I think it has been played out and well documented over the last several weeks, not only in the stadiums we have played in but others. I look forward to being part of the process of helping it improve.”
Different kind of safety talk
Cornerback Ike Taylor said Sunday there has been brief talk about him possibly moving to safety.
“That hasn’t been discussed formally in any form or fashion,” Tomlin said. “Ike and I talk about that from time to time because a lot of guys that have played his position have extended their careers in that manner, particularly guys that have the type of size that he has.”
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @EdBouchette.