By Jeremy Hritz
We will see if Mike Tomlin is just a good coach or an outstanding coach in 2013.
This past week, many Pittsburgh Steelers starters departed for fat contracts with other teams, while the team reclaimed some old baggage by resigning the likes of Larry Foote, Ramon Foster, Matt Spaeth, David Johnson and Greg Warren.
None of the moves (or lack thereof) thus far have come as any surprise, as the Steelers are historically ultra-conservative in their approach to free agency. When all is said and done and the dust has cleared, the Steelers will not have signed any big name free agents.
And then there is the current scenario surrounding Emmanuel Sanders who apparently could end up with an offer sheet from the New England Patriots. If Sanders leaves, the Steelers will have a pedestrian wide receiving corps headlined by Antonio Brown and dinosaurs Jerricho Cotchery and Plaxico Burress.
Never has a draft been so important than the one looming this April. The current Steelers roster has many holes, as starters James Harrison, Casey Hampton, Mike Wallace, Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, and possibly Sanders, will all move on to new organizations by the time the smoke clears. Considering the barely- average performance of Foote, the Steelers have talent needs at outside and inside linebacker, wide receiver, running back and depth needs at safety and on the defensive line. Ultimately, there aren’t many positions where the Steelers cannot use help.
With all of the needs that the Steelers do have as a result of the numerous departures, the loss of Sanders is potentially something that should be welcomed as it would result in the addition of a third round pick. While Sanders has played well, he is not the most durable, nor is he the most reliable receiver, as he has a tendency to fumble. With the addition of a third round pick, the Steelers can select a receiver early, and use their second and two third round picks to address linebacker, running back, and safety depth, and then add another receiver in the fourth round. Considering the receivers available in this draft, the Steelers may be able to upgrade at the position over what Wallace and Sanders provided.
With the many questions that are surrounding this team and the many new faces that will assume starting roles in 2013, the youth movement that long has been coming is here. With all of these new pieces in place, Tomlin’s ability to motivate and utilize the talents of his players will be put on display. Will he be able to motivate a mix of older, high-caliber players and unproven youngsters to win games and earn a spot in the playoffs? Or will his coaching allow for another year of mediocrity, gaffed by player misconduct and suspensions? Tomlin has had a solid career thus far with the Steelers, but no other year will challenge him as much as 2013 will.
Can his coaching overcome the flurry of offseason changes?
It better or it could be another long, disappointing year.