Share & Comment:

Straying Away from the “Steelers Way”

For decades, the Pittsburgh Steelers have not only had sustainable success, but they have had a reputation as a classy NFL franchise. They have followed the “Steelers Way” when handling players and coaches alike. The Rooney family has owned the organization for the entirety of its existence. The Steelers like to build hard-working and physical team through the draft, make limited moves in free agency (few of them flashy), and are loyal to their coaching staff. It is common for franchise legends to retire as a member of the team if they desire. There are very few, if any, mid-season changes or impulsive decisions made when it comes to any move with any sort of personnel. Slow and steady, Pittsburgh grows and develops coaches and players alike and is more often than not a perennial playoff contender. This is the “Steelers Way”, and fans worldwide take pride in the archetypes that form the identity of the black and gold. At least, it was.

It is no secret that in recent years, the Steelers have struggled, particularly offensively. Towards the end of Roethlisberger’s career, the offensive line was particularly weak. Draft picks have not all panned out ideally; former 2nd round pick Chase Claypool and 1st round pick Kenny Pickett come to mind. The effort of certain players, such as Diontae Johnson, has been questioned. Locker room interviews with Najee Harris and others have given the impression at times that blame is being passed between players as opposed to everyone working together to provide better performances consistently. To add insult to injury, former offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s scheme and leadership produced an offense that averaged only 18.7 points per game over the past 3 seasons.

Although there are some areas that could use improvement, the defense throughout this time period has been layered with talent. Cam Heyward, TJ Watt, Alex Highsmith, and Minkah Fitzpatrick have led the way. Unfortunately, fans have seen more of this group than they would like to due to the offense’s lack of productivity and a lop-sided time of possession in many games.

Veering away from the numbers for a moment, watching the Steelers over the last few seasons has just not felt good, even to the most loyal fans. Seasons have started with positivity and high expectations, but the team has felt almost lifeless at times when they have taken the field. There have been many plays, possessions, and even games where it was hard to truly believe. Frustration has been at a high.

So what has been the result of this situation? The Pittsburgh Steelers have started to make some changes.

Mid-way through the 2023 season, offensive coordinator Matt Canada was fired. After starting quarterback Kenny Pickett was injured and Mitch Trubisky was not performing well, Mason Rudolph was called upon. Rudolph delivered a few wins late in the season, and he continued to start even in the playoffs despite a healthy Kenny Pickett.

During the first offseason with Omar Khan as general manager, there have been rather flashy moves made thus far. The quarterback room is entirely new with the signing of Russell Wilson, trading of Kenny Pickett, release of Mitch Trubisky, and acquisition of Justin Fields. Kyle Allen was also signed to be QB3, presumably. Diontae Johnson was traded away, and Van Jefferson was signed. Defensive pieces including Patrick Queen and DeShon Elliott have been brought in, and other roster moves not mentioned here have also occurred.

Instead of hiring a new offensive coordinator from within, the Steelers hired one outside of the organization in Arthur Smith. In a similar fashion, quarterbacks coach Tom Arth and wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni were also brought in this offseason.

What do all of these changes mean? It seems as though the franchise is veering away a bit from the “Steelers Way”, and it is okay. In fact, it likely is the best option for Pittsburgh’s future success. The gameplans and calls of ex-offensive coordinator Matt Canada were typically subpar to say the least. Diontae Johnson’s effort was questioned multiple times, and based upon some post-game interviews, the atmosphere of the locker room did not seem ideal. Albert Einstein once said the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”. Over the past few years, the Steelers tried to follow the “Steelers Way”. They were loyal to Matt Canada and wanted to give him a chance to develop. They held back from flashy off-season moves and continued to try to build through the draft. Unfortunately, the pieces in place just didn’t seem to be coming together. Instead of repeating this for another season and hoping for a different result, Pittsburgh has begun to take action. The underlying identity of the Pittsburgh Steelers still has not changed; the city still has the same expectations, Mike Tomlin is still at the helm, and franchise ownership has not changed hands. The goals of this offseason are simply trying to build a roster that can have success in 2024 while maintaining the culture of the team that western Pennsylvania adores.


Sign up below for the latest news, stories and podcasts from our affiliates

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.