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Thread: If coaching changes are made, who would would best?

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    Question If coaching changes are made, who would would best?

    If coaching changes are made, who would would best?
    by SteelCage on Dec 21, 2009

    When Mike Tomlin was hired to replace Cowher in 2007, the Steelers saw a firesale in the coaching staff. Tired of waiting for the answer, Ken Whisenhunt, the Offensive Coordinator, left the team to become Head Coach of the Arizona Cardinals. Russ Grimm, the Asst Head Coach and Oline Coach was the heir apparent, the Pittsburgh Tribune even printed a front page report saying he would be named head coach the following week. When it was announced that relative unknown Mike Tomlin was hired a spurned Grimm followed Whiz to Arizona. Also departing Pittsburgh for Steelers West was Special Teams Coach Kevin Spencer.

    However, these weren’t the only coaches hightailing it out of Heinz Field, D-Backs Coach Darren Perry went to Oakland for two years and is now the Safeties Coach for this week’s opponents (Green Bay Packers). Perry’s contributions to the Steelers cannot be undervalued as he helped develop Polamalu, Taylor, and Chris Hope, who departed the Steelers to become a Pro-Bowler himself with the Titans. For those that don’t’ remember Perry’s playing days, he led the Steelers his rookie season with 6 interceptions and is 7th on the Steelers all-time list with 32. Also, QB Coach Mark Whipple, departed for the Eagles and is now the OC for University of Miami. While those losses certainly hurt, the final loss was also painful, as Dick Hoak finally hung up the cleats for good, retiring as the Runningbacks Coach after almost as many years with the Steelers as the Rooney family. Tomlin was an up-and-comer, but certainly not a known entity, was forced to fill those vacant positions.

    As the Steelers were one of the last teams to hire their new head coach, most of the other new Head Coaches had already filled their staffs. Tomlin being a new guy didn’t have a huge following of former colleagues to choose from, was short on time with the late hiring, and had to win over a team that was disappointed and in some cases (Faneca) quite upset that Grimm or Whiz were not hired. Under those circumstances, Tomlin and Colbert had to make hirings and internal promotions I don’t believe they would have otherwise. Here is a list of the former coaches and their replacements:

    OC – Whisenhunt replaced internally by WR Coach Bruce Arians. This, in my opinion, was to limit offensive turnover and appease the offensive guys who would have all been angry if they also had to deal with an outsider at OC.

    ST – Kevin Spencer replaced by Bob Ligashesky. What can I say folks, he was available.

    OL – Russ Grimm (Also Asst Head Coach) replaced by Larry Zierlein. As a Marine, I have to respect Zeirlein for serving during Vietnam. A known entity in the NFL and a good technique teacher, but otherwise, there is a reason he has bounced around more than a super ball in a hotel staircase. (Note: The Asst Head Coach Position went rightfully to DL Coach Jon Mitchell.)

    WR –Bruce Arians promotion left opening. Replaced by Randy Fichtner.

    RB – Dick Hoak replaced by Kirby Wilson, who Tomlin knew from his time in Tampa Bay. Hired because he was known to Mike Tomlin, something he needed as a first time head coach with a staff comprised half of Cowher holdovers and half fillers. Only other coach on the staff to truly know Mike Tomlin was LB Coach Kevin Butler who coached with him at both Memphis and Arkansas State.

    QB – Mark Whipple replaced by Ken Anderson. Ken Anderson is a good hiring. His development of Roethlisberger is only being hindered by the style of the offense (throw the ball away sometimes). A good look at the benefits of a good QB is that our 3rd string QB almost pulled off a win against the Ravens if not for the brilliant overtime playcalling. Dixon’s development into a real number 2, maybe future NFL starter can be attributed to Ken.

    DB – Darren Perry replaced internally by Asst DB coach Ray Horton. With the offense seeing nearly complete turnover, the defense needed continuity, to they kept Horton around hoping Perry had rubbed off on him.

    Another hiring was Harold Goodwin, Quality Control – Offense and Asst O-Line coach. I can’t find who he replaced and can’t fault him for our struggles so this will be the last you hear me talk about his position in this post. If you look at our problems this year, it is those positions that have been replaced. So, I will start with the coaches I think could be on the chopping block possibly, with least likely going first. The following coaches could be or are definitely on the block: WR, RB, DB, OL, ST, OC. We will look at some candidates after the jump. It is a little lengthy but hopefully that will lead to some good discussions.

    WR Coach Randy Fichtner

    Reason Unlikely – The emergence of Santonio Holmes as a star, continued consistency of Hines Ward, and fast start to Mike Wallace’s career.

    Reason Possible – Mike Tomlin and Bruce Arians were both WR Coaches and Hines Ward is another coach on the field, so they are likely involved some in the WR development. The "details" have been lacking and in the past three years we have had more dropped passes and blown routes than I can remember. Also, Limas Sweed has potential that a good WR Coach should be able to develop.

    Replacement – I am only listing one guy because I think this is the least likely, but I think this hiring would greatly benefit both the Steelers and Mike Tomlin. Charlie Williams, WR Coach for University of North Carolina. First, Tomlin’s first year with the Buccaneers what Williams’ last, so they know each other. Second, since returning to the college coaching ranks, Williams has coached at South Carolina, Arizona, and now UNC, developing the following players: Troy Williamson (Vikings), Mike Thomas (Jaguars rookie and Arizona star) and from UNC the following strong rookie class: Hakeem Nicks (NYG), Brandon Tate (Titans), and Brooks Foster (St. Louis). Nicks and Tate are legitimate NFL WRs. I especially like this because Nicks is very similar to Sweed in size, speed and route running and Nicks had some drop issues early in his UNC career he was able to fix.


    RB Coach Kirby Wilson

    Reason Unlikely – The running game is vastly improved with Mendy, who is a three down back,

    something we haven’t had in a long time. You are hearing this here first, if he stays healthy, Mendy will break Barry Foster’s single season rushing record from 1992, 1690 yards.

    Reason Possible – Someone needs to get on Mendy about tucking the ball in before we fans all

    lose our minds during games. And how did MeMo’s blocking get worse? Is it a lack of efforrt? More importantly, why did it take the head coach to motivate a first round pick to be "on the details". That should never have had to happen.

    Replacement – I feel this is a little more likely to happen than WR so I will give two candidates without leaving Pittsburgh.

    Candidate 1 – David Walker, Runningbacks Coach – Pitt

    For the last five years has helped develop one of the more consistent rushing teams in the country. Prior to that he was the RB coach at Syracuse where he coached four consecutive 1000 yard rushers, the only time in Syracuse history that has happened. At Pitt, was instrumental in the progress of LeSean McCoy, current Eagles rookie and LaRod Stephens-Howling, Cardinals rookie. Would make a strong addition as a teacher of the position and could further develop Mendy, MeMo, and whoever are our third RB and FB (I heard this position could exist on the Steelers next season).


    Candidate 2 – The longshot – Jerome Bettis – Analyst, Former Steeler and Future HOF RB

    Normally, this would make no sense. Very few players that transition to the booth or to sport analyst want anything to do with the long hours of coaching, but I think the Bus might be the exception. His first gig as a TV analyst failed after one season. He is now writing a column "The Bus Stop" for Since he started this in September, he has written 14 total articles. Of those 14, the Steelers have been in the subject line of 5 of them and have been mentioned in 9 of the other 11. I am not talking about just relating something to his time with the Steelers, which many former players do, but I am talking about actually talking up 2 out of 10 paragraphs or so. Some of that has to do with the train-wreck that has been this season, but he was a homer when we were 6-2 as much as now. I think his love for the Steelers could be enough to coax him out of retirement. Couldn’t hurt to ask him, and his presence would bring some necessary toughness to the RBs. He could mentor Mendy, and help him to wrap the ball up, and his presence could convince Fast Willie to take a hometown discount having seen the Bus do the same. This would save the Steelers some headaches in the offseason trying to find a viable free agent RB or having to reach to draft one.

    DB Coach Ray Horton

    Reason Unlikely – He has been here in feast and in famine. Troy’s injury and lack of personnel to cover for such a huge loss caused the downfall.

    Reason Possible – Regardless of who has been injured, the Defensive Backfield has been BAD! I still love Ike as a man corner, but he needs top-cover. Ryan Clark and Willie Gay have been less than impressive. Ryan Mundy has not even come close to developing and our 3rd round corner can’t win a special teams job when he is a spitting image of last year’s starting corner (McFadden). Development of players is flat out lacking.

    Candidate 1 – Charlie Harbison – Co-DC/DB Coach, Clemson

    In his second stint at Clemson, he has two players in the top fifteen (DeAndre McDaneil with 8 and Rashard Hall with 6) in interceptions and one of the strongest defensive backfields in the nation. Has coached at Alabama, Southern Miss, LSU etc and was the coach for the following NFL players: Fernando Bryant, Brian Dawkins, Dexter McCleon, Corey Webster, to name a few. His development of Safeties in particular should be noted.

    Candidate 2 – Carnell Lake – DB coach, UCLA

    I know, this is the second former Steeler on the list, but this one actually has some credence. He went through the NFL Coaching intern program with the Eagles two seasons ago and is in his first season coaching with the Bruins. Guess what, the only playerin the nation with more picks than Clemson’s McDaniel is UCLA’s Rahim Moore and they have another guy with 5 picks. It appears he can coach as well as he played. Remember, lots of older cornerbacks transition to safety, but pick another safety who can switch mid-season to corner and make the Pro Bowl (although he made it as a safety it was because of what he was able to do when he slid over to CB when Woodson was injured).

    OL Coach Larry Zierlein

    No reason to debate possibility, this is almost a done deal.

    Now for candidates, this gets interesting because there are tons of guys and opinions out there. Some BTSC posters have provided imput on other posts (StoneColdSteve in particular) mentioned Bob Bostad, OL coach, Wisconsin, Jack Bicknell Jr (NYG Asst Oline coach), and Jim Hueber (Vikings Asst Oline Coach). Well, these all come from one of three groups I will discuss: The Boston College O-Line Coaching Tree, the Wisconsin O-Line Coaching Tree, and the SteelCage Wildcards.

    Boston College Tree – So, the guy at BC now is in his first year so I am excluding him. Jack Bicknell, Jr was the Asst HC/Oline Coach at BC from 2006-2008. He was also the center for Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary being a BC Olineman himself. He is largely responsible for the development of Gosder Cherilus, 17th draft pick of the Lions in the 2008 draft. Prior to that, 22 of his players were either drafted by or signed free agent contracts with NFL teams. Not going to be easy to pry him away from the Giants after only one year. Before him was Don Horton, the current Oline Coach with NC State who was at BC from 2003-2006. Look at the list on his Bio of NLF players coached, in my opinion he was the backbone of the Oline reputation BC garnered and Bicknell just continued with his work. Would be a welcome addition if he would be willing to work NFL hours at 52 years old (when the season starts) with two daughters under 6 years old. Horton is the easier sell.

    Bicknell Bio

    Horton Bio

    Wisconsin Coaching Tree – Bob Bostad has had a few guys really get some attention (including our 3rd round pick and former All-American Kraig Urbik). But he has only been the OL Coach at Wisconsin for two year (two years prior he was the TE Coach), too short to say he is responsible, although he certainly didn’t hurt the Wisconsin reputation. Before him was current UCLA OL Coach Bob Palcic who coached from 2006-2008 and is responsible for Joe Thomas. At his other coaching stops he has coached more all-pro tackles than you can count, Jonathan Ogden and Tony Boselli to name two. Think he could help Starks and Colon, maybe not, but he could identify a good replacement for them. Before him at Wisconsin was Jim Hueber, Asst OL Coach with the Vikings. He is really the reason for the Wisconsin reputation, as Hueber spent the 1995-2005 seasons coaching the Wisconsin linemen. The hard part would be convincing him to leave the north which he obviously loves (coached the Golden Gohpers before Wisconsin) and convincing the Vikings to let him go. Palcic of UCLA is the best bet in my opinion of these three.

    Bostad Bio

    Palcic Bio

    Hueber Bio

    SteelCage Wildcards

    Candidate 1 – Reese Morgan, OL Coach, Iowa

    For the past seven years, while Iowa has been turning heads on the football field, Reese Morgan has been quietly building a stable of NFL Caliber OLinemen, including two good looking tackle prospects this year in Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway. While he flopped as a tackle, Raiders Robert Gallery was playing Guard at a Pro Bowl level prior to injury this season. Prior to coaching the linemen, he coached TE for three years at Iowa as well. His first NFL success was actually TE Dallas Clark. Not a bad resume and I think this guy may be the best overall candidate unless…

    Morgan Bio

    Candidate 2 – Dermontti Dawson, Scouting Intern, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Already in the organization and the second of the legendary "three". He said he wanted to get back into football last season, but coaching was too much time with his children entering middle school. Kevin Colbert said his scouting staff was full but he would take him on as an intern. Could this have been Colbert’s way of keeping him with the Steelers in case Zierlein didn’t pan out this year? Could Dawson be convinced to coach if it was OL for his beloved Steelers? If so, Colbert would not only be looked at as a great draft guy, but also as a shrewd personnel manager. Here’s to hoping.

    ST Coordinator Bob Ligashesky

    Another foregone, and I emphasize for-GONE, conclusion. Our special teams units look anything but special. Once again, the first two guys are courtesy of StoneColdSteel.

    Candidate 1 – Bobby April, Asst HC/ST Coordinator, Buffalo Bills

    As noted by SCS "the Bills special teams unit has been ranked number 1 in the NFL three out of the past five years. " Bobby April is a huge reason for this and would be a great addition. However, I see this as unlikely. While SCS noted they will likely be starting over, I don’t think April will want to throw away the Asst HC title unless it is for a really good reason, like a HC position.


    Candidate 2 – Dan Sharp, ST Coordinator/TE Coach, TCU

    TCU has the number one KR and number 20 PR team in Division 1 Football. His kicker is 14 for 17 and his freshman punter has placed over 55 percent of his kicks inside the 20 with only 7 touchbacks in 54 attempts. Once again, I am not sure how likely this is. He has two younger children and both he and his wife are from Texas and he is a TCU graduate. As TCU has had good special teams for the past few years, it is hard to believe he hasn’t been given a chance in the NFL unless he was not interested. I would definitely gauge his interest though.


    Alternate Candidate 1 – Mike Elston, Asst HC/ST Coordinator/DL Coach, University of Cincinnati

    Whereas TCU is 1st in KR and 20th in PR, Cincinnati is 2nd and 19th respectively. The Bearcats, behind two-time Associated Press all-America punter Kevin Huber, have led the nation in net punting in each of the past two seasons. Additionally, with Cincinnati HC Brian Kelly taking over for Charlie Weiss as HC at Notre Dame and OC Jeff Quinn taking over for Turner Gill as HC at University of Buffalo, now is the perfect time to make a run for Elston, who is likely on his way out of Cincinnati. I think he could follow Kelly to ND, but the move from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh is shorter.


    Wildcard Candidate – Demonti Cross, Asst ST Coordinator/Asst LB Coach

    Works with the OLB in Buffalo and assists Bobby April working primarily with the gunners on the coverage teams. He is in his fourth season with the Bills and prior to that was the LB Coach and ST Coordinator with Iowa State from 2001-2005. A young riser ala Tomlin, could be exactly what the ST units need, some fresh ideas from the young buck.


    pg 1

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    Default Re: If coaching changes are made, who would would best?

    pg 2

    Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians

    Say what you want about the stats put up by our offense, situational play calling has killed the Steelers as has Arians unimaginative offensive scheme. We have struggled with balance on and off, scoring consistently, and 3rd down conversions have been abysmal. Everyone has had something to say about who should fill this position, so let me first get the "Not gonna happen" coaches out of the way.

    The Shanahans (Mike and Kyle)

    Mike Shanahan (former HC Broncos) is in serious talks with the Redskins about taking over the HC job there. If not the Skins, it will be another team. He will not take a position that isn’t HC. As for his son, Houston Texans OC Kyle Shanahan, rumor has it he will follow his dad wherever he ends up to be Mike’s OC.

    Chan Gailey (fired as Chiefs OC during offseason)

    Cowher’s choice as his successor, Gailey had some success with the Steelers in the past. However, much like Kyle Shanahan, I think Gailey will end up Cowher’s OC wherever he ends up.

    Mike Mularkey, OC, Falcons/Pete Carmichael Jr., OC, Saints

    As the OC for the Falcons, Mularkey has a young stud QB, RB, HOF TE, and rising WR. He isn’t going anywhere unless it is to give HC another try. Carmichael is in a similar situation. Brees, Colston, Bell, Thomas…Why would he leave for a non-HC job. Just my opinion folks.

    Russ Grimm, Asst HC/Running Game Coordinator/OL Coach

    He is not an OC. Not even longtime colleague and buddy Ken Whisenhunt would turn over the reins to him. One of the top OL Coaches in the league, I still think he left Pittsburgh too angry to return. Plus, I think it would cause more splitting in the locker room, the exact opposite of what Tomlin needs.

    Mike Martz, Gary Kubiak, Steve Mariucci

    Let the West Coast Offense guys stay on the West Coast. It can and does work, but in Pittsburgh in December, especially with the drops that have plague us this season, do you really want to dink and dunk or ground and pound.

    Norm Chow, OC, UCLA/Mark Whipple, OC, Miami (FL)

    Total YPG (Rank)
    Pass YPG (Rank)
    Rush YPG (Rank)
    PPG (Rank)
    3rdDn% (Rank)

    339.3 (88)
    236.8 (48T)
    116.4 (98)
    21.3 (99T)
    34.1 (90)

    412.5 (36T)
    287.3 (25)
    144.4 (62)
    31.7 (27)
    44.6 (14)

    The top one is Norm Chow, so can we just say no now and leave it at that. UCLA is nowhere near the top in any category. Mark Whipple and Miami (FL) is the second line and it is very respectable. His hiring might be a good thing as Big Ben will be miffed to lose BA, but how will this affect Ken Anderson? And would bringing someone back who left after the Cowher regime rebuild confidence, or lead players to the belief that the Rooneys and Colbert made the wrong decision with Tomlin? I think that would be reason enough to not do this hiring.

    The Dream of many versus the Dream of SteelCage

    Total YPG (Rank)
    Pass YPG (Rank)
    Rush YPG (Rank)
    PPG (Rank)
    3rdDn% (Rank)

    451.8 (9)
    337.9 (5)
    128.3 (86)
    30.1 (38)
    39.1 (46)

    441.4 (13)
    221.1 (74)
    224.3 (11)
    36.2 (10)
    45.5 (11)

    465.2 (5)
    292.7 (19)
    190.4 (25)
    33.9 (14)
    48.4 (4)

    The first line is Charlie Weiss’ Notre Dame. His pass first offense couldn’t outscore the two more balanced offenses listed, and his third down percentage suffered the same fate. Ranking 86th in rushing is the last straw for me, let someone else have him, he is nothing without Belichick. The second line would be what the NFL would like most, the best storyline. Who is our greatest rival right now, the Baltimore Ravens with HC John Harbaugh. Why has no one thought about his brother Jim Harbaugh, HC Stanford (and the second line) as a possibility? A run first coach who’s big dog Gerhart led the nation in rushing. They are top 13 in every category except for passing, which needs some work. However, he is a former NFL QB who could complete the molding of Big Ben. Could be a special merger. And think how the NFL would love this one, like Peyton versus Eli except twice a year and bitter divisional rivals.

    Harbaugh Bio

    But that last line screams hire me. Top 25 in all categories, with top 5 in Total YPG and 3rd Down Percentage. Can you say Texas A&M Head Coach Mike Sherman. This only makes more sense when you think about it. Brett Favre is a gunslinger similar to Big Ben. Some of his best statistical seasons were under Sherman from 2000-2005. In 2003, Ahman Green set the Green Bay single season rushing record with 1883 yards. A return to balance would be monumental. He was an OT in college and started his coaching career coaching OL, a Steelers problem area. Add in the fact that the Steelers asked and received permission from the Houston Texans to interview Mike Sherman (who was the Texans OC at the time) for the head coaching job but never interviewed him, and I think he would make a great OC for the Steelers. Also, if by some chance Tomlin is on the chopping block, and I doubt that, Sherman and Harbaugh would be my 1 and 2 for that position as well.


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