I would say that Pittsburgh Steelers fans are prone to conspiracy theories, but that would be too specific. The reality is that a large percentage of the population is prone to conspiracy theories, and there is a reasonable logic behind it.
Conspiracy theories—and here I am speaking of the stereotype, as there are actual conspiracies sometimes—serve an important mechanism in relieving cognitive dissonance, as well as anxiety. They provide answers to the otherwise unexplained. If something horrible is happening, at least we can pinpoint why. It’s because of the chemtrails. Obviously.
Anyway, one of the popular theories of this early offseason has been that, in one manner or another, the Steelers forced defensive coaching changes while seeming not to. The theories behind this have varied. Either they simply wanted their coaches to save face, or head coach Mike Tomlin was undermined from above, with changes thrust upon him.
Specifically, defensive backs coach Carnell Lake resigned his post, with the reason stated being that he wants to be closer to his family in California, where his son is currently in his senior season. Longtime defensive line coach John Mitchell also has been shifted full-time to assistant head coach, with Karl Dunbar brought in to coach the defensive line in his stead—or perhaps in tandem.
There are many believe that Lake’s resignation is similar to the ‘retirement’ of Bruce Arians, who, after failing to have his contract renewed when it expired, quickly signed on with the Indianapolis Colts after the team’s official stance was that he was retiring. Arians went on to continue embarrassing them by becoming a head coach after that and even winning head coach of the year.
That was a legitimate conspiracy, but the departure of Lake does not appear to be one. According to a recent chat session from Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the seven-year defensive backs coach “truly did leave on his own” and was not forced out of his post.
This response was in answer to a question about his thoughts on the defensive changes and if he expected there to be more (which the reader was hoping for). Bouchette conceded that he was wrong prior in believing no defensive changes would take place, but his continued response would seem to indicate that he since independently verified the nature of Lake’s departure.
For what it is worth, I also read from another source that is behind a paywall the very same thing: that is, that Lake was departing on his own terms to be with his family, and in fact it was a consideration for him for multiple years now.
Tomlin did not waste a great deal of time replacing him, though, adding former Penn State coach Tom Bradley to the staff. Bradley served a number of roles in his long tenure there, much of which included coaching the defensive backs. He also played the position, as did Lake, having done so with the Steelers, while Bradley played for the Nittany Lions.