Coaching staff taking shape

Why Ken Anderson? Why Bruce Arians? Dale Lolley breaks down why Mike Tomlin is making the hires he is for his first coaching staff.

Mike Tomlin's first staff as head coach here with the Pittsburgh Steelers looks a lot like the old one – with a few notable exceptions.

For obvious reasons, there was no way that assistant head coach/offensive line coach Russ Grimm was going to return after being passed over for the head coaching position in favor of Tomlin. And really, there was no way that Tomlin was going to bring the man back who finished second to him.

That was a no-brainer.

Also a no-brainer was Tomlin keeping Dick LeBeau as his defensive coordinator. Not only did the Steelers strongly suggest that Tomlin keep LeBeau, but there's no way that Tomlin was going to find someone more qualified to be defensive coordinator than LeBeau is.

LeBeau's zone-blitzing schemes and Tomlin's cover-2 defense wouldn't seem to mesh, but LeBeau has also coached the 4-3 before. And Tomlin will need to lean on LeBeau to help him mold this defense in the near future.

The same could be said of Tomlin's decision to elevate wide receivers coach Bruce Arians to offensive coordinator.

Tomlin is going to have a a lot on his plate in the next few months as he finds a new home in Pittsburgh, gets his kids into a new school, studies the current roster and readies for free agency and the draft. Considering the team had already lost Grimm, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and running backs coach Dick Hoak, Tomlin was likely looking for some kind of offensive continuity. Arians will be able to bring that.

By why Arians over, say, quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple, who was not retained?

Looking at the two men's resumes, Arians has more experience as a play caller and is less likely to be looking to jump ship for a head coaching position in the near future. Whipple, who was a candidate to become Boston College's head coach during the offseason, may have used one season as Steelers offensive coordinator as a springboard for another job next season.

And by adding former Cincinnati Bengals star Ken Anderson as his quarterbacks coach, Tomlin has a man in Arians who worked as a quarterbacks coach with Peyton Manning in his formative years, and a man in Anderson who performed at a high level during his NFL career. Don't forget, too, that as a kid growing up in Ohio, Ben Roethlisberger probably saw a lot of Ken Anderson during his playing days. That should give Anderson instant credibility with the young QB.

It is curious that Tomlin chose not to retain defensive backs coach Darren Perry. It's only speculation at this point, but it is possible that a pair of DUIs that Perry has had over the years didn't fit in with the image the apparently squeaky clean Tomlin wants to project. The decision not to retain Perry could also have something to do with the fact that Perry spent his coaching and playing career in a zone-blitz scheme and was a Bill Cowher favorite.

Those coming an goings leave Tomlin with just a few more coaches to hire. He needs to hire a wide receivers coach to replace Arians; an offensive line coach to replace Grimm; a running backs coach to replace Hoak; and a special teams coach to replace Kevin Spencer, who also went to Arizona to join Whisenhunt.

As a former defensive backs coach himself, it's unlikely that Tomlin will need to make a hire to replace Perry. Instead, he will likely just promote assistant defensive backs coach Ray Horton to the post.

The new staff has a decidedly Cincinnati Bengals look to it with LeBeau, Anderson, Horton and Daniels all having spent time with that team as either a player or coach. But we won't hold that against them.

Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter.


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