Often times in life, our darkest days lead to brighter tomorrows. Right now, Pittsburgh seems to be in its darkest of football days, as the Steelers failed to make the playoffs despite having one of the most talented rosters in the season.
Perhaps rightfully so, as everything that could go wrong for the Steelers came to fruition at some point in the season. Whether it be Chris Boswell’s season long miscues, officiating blunders, or Le’Veon Bell not showing up (along with their offense and defense throughout the season), 2018 appeared to be destined for a drawback of some fashion.
When the Steelers were sitting at 7-2-1, nobody in or outside the city of Pittsburgh would have imagined this team sitting outside of the playoff picture. Yet after losing their last 4/6 games by an average margin of four points, it was apparent we were far removed from the 13-3 Steelers team we witnessed a season ago.
There’s no side-stepping the under-achieving that took place not only for 2018, but for nearly the last decade as well. Since their 2010 Super Bowl appearance, Pittsburgh has won a mere three playoff games since that time. When talking big picture, that simply is unacceptable.
Mike Tomlin is well aware of that, and in his end of season press conference, he addressed those issues head on.
“Change is a part of this, particularly when you are having press conferences like today… Our staff doesn’t run away from that. I’m acknowledging that change is a part of where we’re headed. And I’m open to it because I’m not interested in doing this [again next year].”
For a coach that has been ridiculed to the highest extents for not setting the tone as a leader in the locker room, Tomlin appeared adamant that changes were to be made in order to right the ship. Those changes began Friday, when the team announced long time Steelers linebacker and positional coach Joey Porter was relieved of his duties. Porter received a lot of criticism for his failure to develop players at the linebacker position, while also carrying the stigma of a “players guy” rather than a coach.
The firing of Porter shows a few different things. First off, Tomlin is already making good on his word of change. For a coach that speaks with great passion, his actions have not always followed suit. Secondly, the door has now been open for more change within the coaching staff, as Danny Smith (special teams coordinator) and Keith Butler (defensive coordinator) are also favored to hit the road at some point in the off-season as well.
On the field, change will likely be seen as well, although the player portion is more unpredictable. Will Pittsburgh hang on to the likes of Artie Burns, Chris Boswell and Marcus Gilbert? What does Bud Dupree’s future hold? Le’Veon Bell has potentially played his last game in a Steelers uniform, and Antonio Brown just may have joined him as well, although that remains a stretch in itself.
These changes are some that fans have been pounding the table for, for quite a long time. Would the vibrant tone of change be alive had the Steelers snuck into the playoffs? It’s an argument that NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala reports many inside the organization believe would not have happened, if not for missing the playoffs:
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) January 3, 2019
There’s a definite movement for change within the Steelers organization. While Pittsburgh fell short of their goals this season, the changes to be made could lift them to new levels in 2019. The 2018 season can be given any assortment of adjectives, whether it be tumultuous or even flat-out embarrassing. While those descriptions certainly fall in line with the narrative, the Steelers may look back on 2018 and see it differently than most: A blessing in disguise.