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A Letter From the Editor: The Steelers need more leaders of men

Earlier this week reports started to circulate about the Pittsburgh Steelers interviewing potential prospects for the several vacancies they have on their coaching staff. Quarterbacks coach and wide receivers coach were the big positions which needed filled, and the team made a trio of coaching changes official this past Friday.

Immediately fans around the Steelers landscape started to dive into these coaches and try and put a finger on how they could help the Steelers get to the next level on offense. Looking into these coaches’ history isn’t a worthless endeavor, but the more I thought about it the more I thought maybe we are looking at the wrong things, as it pertains to these coaching hires.

Every year we talk about coaches and hear Mike Tomlin say things like, “I loved the fact he is a teacher. He knows how to teach the position.”

That’s certainly an important aspect of the job, but are these individuals leaders of men?

Yes, the Tomlin saying “leaders of men” is certainly one which has been used on more than one occasion, but it’s true. When you think about the players and the way they respond to certain coaches, it matters. The ultimate leader of men is Tomlin himself. Player after player has gone through the Steelers organization and has done nothing but talk about how Tomlin’s approach is exactly what it should be at the professional level. But in recent years, have there been any other coaches who fall into that category?

Once upon a time the Steelers coaching staff was riddled with leaders. Leaders who also were phenomenal teachers. Now, it seems as though the hires have been great teachers, but not the strongest leaders.

A hasty generalization? Maybe, but let’s take a look back at recent history…

Before his shocking death during training camp, Steelers wide receivers spoke of Darryl Drake as not just a father figure, but a man who knew how to get to these young professionals and teach them more than just the wide receiver position.

When John Mitchell was working with the defensive line, and players like Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel, they spoke about how Mitchell’s style being just what they needed. Yes, it might have been considered hardcore, but Mitchell didn’t just get the most out of his players at their position, but as men.

Look at Mike Munchak who turned players like Alejandro Villanueva and Ramon Foster into every day starters, and players like Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro openly stated they’d run through a proverbial wall for their position coach.

Have you heard someone say that about Pat Meyer? How about Frisman Jackson before his contract wasn’t retained? Anyone saying that about any coaches not named Mike Tomlin right now?

This isn’t to bash the new coaching hires, or the coaching staff, but I am a person who believes there is more to coaching than Xs and Os. Can you get these young men to not just execute, but impact their lives in a way where they fully buy into everything you are coaching. Can they be all-in on what you are selling?

As someone who coached high school students at the varsity level, not football but lacrosse, you realize the majority of the work you do isn’t on the field, but helping them become better human beings. Through 13 years of doing just that, you learned once you get them to follow your lead in that regard, getting them to follow a blueprint on the field is rather simple.

Would these new hires fit the bill of leaders of men? Only time will tell, but I’ll say I would be more than okay with the Steelers bringing in another coach or two as Assistant Coaches who are willing to help create the culture the Steelers were once known for surrounding by dedication and work ethic.

Leaders of men…let’s not underscore just how important that is when it comes to team building and success on the field.


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