Does Steelers’ Recent Coaching News Shake Confidence?
Jack Bicknell Jr. is the latest hire for the Steelers coaching staff.
The Steelers coaching staff saw some vacancies once their season ended in 2012. Two positions opened up while the potential of a third hung in the air. The buffet opened for coaches (head coaching and assistants) and the ‘rush’ was on. But as the Steelers interview and fill these slots, should Steeler Nation be wary of the front office’s decision making?
The Steelers fired special teams coach Al Everest at the beginning of the season. Amos Jones filled the role during the season, but he left for Pittsburgh West (Arizona) a few days ago. The Steelers asked the Redskins to speak with their special teams coach, Danny Smith. Danny Smith’s past with the Redskins is not a rosy story when you ask Redskin fans or pundits familiar with the team. Even though the team has a good track record of not giving up a special teams TD during Smith’s tenure (something the Steelers desperately need), Smith’s ability to develop and inspire his special teams to rank highly with return yards and TD’s has been put into question. His ability to prepare his players (gee that sounds familiar) has also been put into question. Per SB Redskins:
"While Danny Smith has been very successful in preventing special teams TDs, the past few years have been a revolving door of punters and kickers. Shaun Suisham, Graham Gano, Billy Cundiff, Derrick Frost, it goes on and on. The Redskins allowed five blocked FGs in 2011. That’s outrageous. Players vehemently defended Danny Smith saying it was poor execution, which the film validated with missed assignments, but someone has to take blame, right?"
This just does not instill confidence that a man of Smith’s past will advance (not sustain) the special teams play that plagues the Steelers over the course of ever season. Strike 1.
The Steelers lost offensive line coach Sean Kugler to UTEP recently. Kugler took the head coaching job for The Miners and should do well there. It was reported on Wednesday that the Steelers hired Jack Bicknell Jr. as their new O-line coach. That was fast. Bicknell was formerly the o-line coach for the Kansas City Chiefs. That’s right, the 2-14 Chiefs. The record didn’t do the team any kind of justice in trying to portray a ‘bright side’ to the season. But, if there ever was one, the Chiefs running game was one of the better ones in the NFL. Even though the Chiefs put five Pro Bowlers in Hawaii this season, none of them were offensive linemen, and running back Jamall Charles was the only offensive player to go. And there’s the rub. Charles is a very good running back with or without a good offensive line.
I haven’t seen tape of Bicknell’s work, but is the offensive line of a 2-14 team so good that he deserves to coach a team that is typically at the top of their division and regularly in the playoffs? Tomlin’s reasoning for wanting to hire Bicknell?
"They played the AFC North, and they ran the ball very well against all the teams in the AFC North. They ran the ball effectively against us when Jamaal Charles had a 100-yard game. That was attractive to me."
Running the ball well against the Browns (19th in run defense), Bengals (12th), and even the Ravens (20th) were easy accomplishments for most teams this season. The Steelers ranked 2nd in run defense but allowed several hundred yard rushers this season. Charles was one of them. But again, he is a back that can make his own success. How much of that is really attributed to the line? Bicknell is known for developing younger players, and the Steelers have four young men starting on the line – DeCastro, Adams, Gilbert, Pouncey. Will he be able to groom these young men into run blocking phenoms? What about defending the pass rush? I’m on the fence about this hire. Is this Strike 2?
The end of the season left myself and many others throughout Steeler Nation shaky about the abilities with the current coaching staff. There were many games where the appeared unprepared and careless. If Smith joins as special teams coach, should we worry more? How much confidence do any of you have with Bicknell Jr.?