- Unlike his predecessor Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin isn’t trigger happy when it comes to firing assistant coaches.
- Perhaps that shouldn’t be the case – at the very least some patterns appear to be replicating themselves…
Bill Cowher to Mike Tomlin, From Trigger Happy to Trigger Hesitant on Assistants
In his first season Bill Cowher assembled a team of coaches who’d never worked together before. Dick Hoak was the lone hold out from Chuck Noll’s staff. Cowher had cold called offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt out of the blue.
- Skeptics wondered if it could work and 1992 Steelers 11-5 take the league by surprise season shows it did.
Assistant coach firings became the norm for the Cowher years as Ron Erhardt, Ray Sherman, Kevin Gilbride, and Tim Lewis all got the boot and that’s only counting the coordinators. Other coaches such as Bobby April left because they found Cowher difficult too work for.
In contrast, Mike Tomlin went two years without firing any assistant. Word is that he resisted pressure (who knows why) to fire Bob Ligashesky after special teams disasters sabotaged the Steelers 2007 season.
Tomlin likewise went to the mat in 2009 to defend Bruce Arians job, but he did nonetheless make other coaching changes.
A Closer Look at Tomlin’s Coaching Changes
Although he saved Arians job (with Ben Roethlisberger's help), Tomlin fired Larry Zierlin and Bob Ligashesky. Ken Anderson retired as quarterbacks coach creating another vacancy.
Back in 2010, to fill those vacancies, Tomlin hired:
- Al Everest to coach special teams
- Sean Kulgler to coach the offensive line
- Scotty Montgomery to coach the wide receivers
Fast forward to 2012. Art Rooney II again pressured Tomlin to fire Bruce Arians, and this time Tomlin declined to stick his neck out for his coordinator, even though he’d already invited Arians back.
- Then in the middle of training camp, Tomlin shocked Steelers Nation, firing special teams coach Al Everest.
Those departures resulted in Tomlin hiring:
- Jack Bicknell Jr. to coach the offensive line
- Danny Smith to coach special teams
- Richard Mann to coach the wide receivers
…Does that mean anything? Perhaps not but it’s a coincidence that deserves recognition. Jack Bicknell has no ties to the Steelers or Tomlin, but the same cannot be said for Danny Smith and Richard Mann.
Danny Smith is a Pittsburgh and Central Catholic graduate. He coached at William and Mary, Tomlin alma mater and also coached in Detroit while Kevin Colbert was there.
Richard Mann has worked in the NFL long enough to coach for the original Cleveland Browns, the Baltimore Colts and the Baltimore Ravens. He also happened to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just when Tomin was breaking into the NFL.
So while Tomlin might have shuffled some assistants some, not all of them are exactly new faces. Perhaps that will turn out to be a good thing. Time will tell.