Steelers Looking To Instill Some Noll School Values This Summer

For the first training camp that he is no longer with us, the Pittsburgh Steelers would seem to be invoking the methodology of the great Chuck Noll more than in recent years, hoping to combat consecutive seasons of mediocre football with a recommitment to the fundamentals of the game and mastering the most basic of assignments: blocking and tackling.

Noll was known for summarizing the game of football in that way—a game of blocking and tackling—and he held true to the belief throughout his career that doing the basics better than everybody else is what led to success.

That’s why the Steelers teams under Noll were regularly some of the most well prepared in the league, behind their coach’s commitment to a mastering of the fundamentals. Other than talent, it’s the most essential ingredient to championship football.

And it’s an ingredient that has been somewhat lacking as of late when it comes to Mike Tomlin’s Steelers in the ‘10s.

Consider these statistics as symptoms of fundamental deficiencies in blocking and tackling, those ubiquitous techniques around which the entire game is built.

The Steelers averaged 3.5 yards per carry for the entirety of the 2013 season, tied for third-worst in the entire league. They surrendered over 100 hits on the quarterback last year, including sacks, a number that was on a significantly higher pace through the first half of the season.

As far as the defense goes, their sack numbers have been down, of course, which has led to less turnovers as a result. But more damaging at a fundamental level is the degenerating display of the very basics.

The Steelers as a defense were responsible for 110 missed tackles last season, a figure that far outpaces any in recent memory for Pittsburgh by about a couple dozen or so.

So what have they done in the hopes of combating this?

For starters, they hired Mike Munchak to be their new offensive line coach, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman in his own right renowned for being a technician at his craft. His knowledge of technique, as well as scheme, should produce great strides in the team’s overall blocking ability this year.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley has also spoken about simplifying things on offense to a degree, particularly as it relates to the no huddle, as well as putting greater emphasis on ball security, which is an area that came into focus last season. Their improvement in the turnover battle helped drive a second-half turnaround that nearly resulted in a playoff spot.

On defense, they’re counting on their outside linebackers to come in to their own, but they’ve also added pass rushing threats at all three levels of the defense over the course of the last 12 months to create a more dynamic pressure package on the opposing quarterback.

They’ve also added tremendous speed in the process, which will help defend the sideline-to-sideline plays that were very damaging to a slower and less disciplined defensive unit from a year ago. Of course, it will be up to Dick LeBeau and the coaching staff to reestablish the fundamentals of tackling this offseason to a group that, as evidenced by last season, could use a refresher course.

Blocking and tackling. Protecting the ball. Recommitting to the fundamentals. These are the themes of this offseason for the Steelers, a team looking to rediscover itself after two years of foundering in a cycle of underachievement.

Now just a brief time after suffering the loss of the godfather of just about everything that defines winning in this city, it’s time to turn back to the past and do it the old fashioned way.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • srdan

    I can’t understand our running woes over the last decade. Well, one thing is true, when Faneca left, so did our run game. But teh steelers invested heavily in the running game over that span with two RBs in the top two rounds, and lots of 1st and second rd linemen. I think coaching has something to do with it, hence the third OL coach in as many years.

    Every year I get really excited about our run game, new linemen, new schemes, new RBs with a promise of commitment to the run and I am usually let down. This year I shoudl be excited again, but I temper that expectation.

    For a while I thought that maybe the bar was set too high with Bettis, Faneca and Dawson, and it would be hard to live up to that. I acknoledge that 3 HoF players are hard to live up to. My wish is not for this team to be number 1 in the league at running the ball like they were with those 3 aforementioned players. But for the Steelers to be in the top 10 teams running shouldn’t be much to ask.

    Granted we play 2 of the top 5 defensive interior linemen in the league twice each.

  • Benjamin Simpson

    I could not agree more with this article. It is an emphasis that has seemed long overlooked in the NFL as a whole not to mention, the Steelers as of late. In a league that is to have the best football players in this country not to mention, coaches as well, probably in the world. One would think we would see more of the art of technicians on Sunday then we do. If this is your passion and this is what you love to do. Then why does it seem that it ends up being players continually trying to get by on athleticism alone. Perhaps all the focus on the remembrance of the impact that Coach Noll has had on this proud franchise. Has opened eyes to fact that this is the answer to the woes of our beloved Steelers. Even after life, Coach Noll is till teaching how to be successful in our lives work once again..

  • chris ward

    Definitely agree blocking and tackling, is something the Steelers need to improve on in 14′.

  • Steve

    With the new collective bargaining agreement, it cut down on the amount of time a player could be in pads. Also cut down the amount of time they could be on the field. Which made the coaches cut out the fundamentals and it has really hurt new players getting to show what they can do. Sometimes I think this new agreement has done more to hurt the players than help them.

  • I assume you mean Ngata and Atkins. Don’t forget about Phil Taylor, hes getting up there too.

  • Well spoken. Especially that last line

  • Benjamin Simpson

    Thanks Johnny.. #STEELERS4LIFE

  • John A Stewart

    The CBA didn’t hurt the Seahawks and other physical teams plain and simple its coaching.

  • Benjamin Simpson

    Coaching is one aspect that needs to improve for sure, but you know you can’t coach speed or desire and there’s no substitute for experience either.. The addition of HOF Munchak to the coaching staff has me believing that the arrow is pointing up. I don’t believe we ever replaced to loss of HOF Russ Grimm until now. The OL play had been degrading since. The OL will be much improved. Which means we will be much improved. If we can stay relatively healthy, I believe we can go deep in the post season as soon this season..