After two straight seasons of equivalent wins and losses, it’s certainly no surprise that the front office of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been busier and more active than usual in their efforts to reshape a middling roster into a true competitor.
The past few months could be fairly described as a season of change amid the shifting fates of a franchise that had just been to the Super Bowl three times in the very recent past. It may well be that past success that has helped drag them down of late.
Of course, selecting late in the draft annually doesn’t help, nor do the big contracts going out to the players that helped you reach that success. But the true death knell has been an unwillingness to recognize when to let go.
The Steelers had hoped to hold together that championship core for a while longer, but the last two seasons have been the wake-up call necessary to introduce the wave of change that we’ve seen this offseason, designed to steer the organization back in the right direction.
Other than the hiring of Mike Munchak, the Steelers coaching staff was shaken up more than usual this offseason, though the second departure was not necessarily by the team’s wishes.
Running backs coach Kirby Wilson chose to move laterally, taking the running backs coach position with the Minnesota Vikings, after recently being passed up for the offensive coordinator position. His chances of upward mobility, he figures, are greater there than they were in Pittsburgh.
It’s obvious that he’s looking to advance, of course. He interviewed for the offensive coordinator job for the Baltimore Ravens, and failing that, chose to find greener pastures elsewhere. If not for an unfortunate early morning house fire a few years ago, he may have found what he was looking for in Pittsburgh.
The change, of course, is in the fact that Wilson was one of the few remaining members of the original offensive coaching staff under Mike Tomlin in 2007. Only tight ends coach James Daniel remains now in his original position. Randy Fichtner moved from wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach in 2010.
It is a bit surprising. The Steelers historically tend to be an organization that promotes from within, and Wilson was indeed the next logical candidate to assume the offensive coordinator position after Bruce Arians—formerly the quarterbacks coach—was relieved of duty.
Indeed, the Steelers have had essentially the same offensive system in place since their last foray into hiring from the outside. The Steelers hired Kevin Gilbride as the team’s new offensive coordinator in 1999, and lasted just a short time before being fired.
Mike Mularky was then promoted from within after serving as the tight ends coach, and after him was Ken Whisenhunt. Both left for head coaching opportunities, and then Arians took over the offensive coordinator job, largely building off the system of his predecessors.
It was widely believed that Wilson would be the primary candidate to replace Arians as the next offensive coordinator, but two years on, he was that Todd Haley wasn’t going anywhere. And thus ends the tenure of yet another coach from Tomlin’s inaugural staff.