The Steelers hold the 25th pick in the first round of the 2016 Draft.
The super early 2016 power rankings are out there, and I have seen the team at 6th a couple of times — and even 10th. Most of the commentary is the same: the offense is great, the defense has some holes that need plugging, and bolstering the secondary is critical.
One thing that is a huge positive for this team is the coaching staff and the fact that the unit looks to be the same in 2016 barring any sudden changes.
Head coach Mike Tomlin’s record speaks for itself, and everyone knows he is not going anywhere for the time being, so even though there were some gaffes during a few games in 2015 that could have been blamed on head coaching, ultimately, the team was in a position to play for a championship. That is the standard.
The complementary staff is where I believe the team has made strides. Offensively, Todd Haley’s tenure had a rocky start, but is now one of the league’s elite units. His play calling was initially questionable, as he compensated for an inadequate running game with a lot of quick passes that annoyed fans.
Then, in 2014, that same offense broke out. Offensive stars were made and Ben Roethlisberger had his most prolific season, as he threw for almost 5,000 yards and tied his record for most touchdown passes (with 32). One cannot forget the two games in which he threw for 12 touchdowns against the Colts and the Ravens.
Things started rolling when Mike Munchak became the offensive line coach. It is no coincidence that practice squad player Alejandro Villanueva started ten regular season games and held his own well into the playoffs at left tackle despite having very minimal experience at the position.
Once a weakness, this offensive line is now a force. Up against the eventual Super Bowl winning defense, Pittsburgh’s line kept the Broncos in check better than the Patriots did and much better than the Panthers did.
On the flip side, the defense is where most believe there is room for improvement. Although, in what was Keith Butler’s first season as defensive coordinator, the team had 48 sacks, which matched its 2010 season total, which was a Super bowl year. Butler and John Mitchell (defensive line coach) have been on staff for years and are well trusted by their players.
The secondary comes under the most scrutiny and does need to improve, but Carnell Lake has done a pretty good job with the players at his disposal. In 2014 and 2015, the secondary improved considerably as the season progressed, and played much better in December and into the playoffs.
The current coaching staff is a prime example of how consistency leads to continued success. This is one of those reasons the Steelers are always considered an elite franchise and a very good reason why fans should be optimistic for 2016.