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Paul Zeise: Steelers have a plan, I'm just not sure what it is

Paul Zeise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Football

PITTSBURGH — The Steelers have been second to none in terms of how they do business. They are consistent, they are measured, they always seem to have a plan and more often than not it produces successful teams.

This offseason is definitely one that is going to test the organization's ability to make good decisions and continue their winning ways. There are so many tough decisions that will need to be made and so much change coming the front office will need to work hard to make sure they avoid setbacks.

That being said, I am not sure they are off to a good start. I mean, I am sure there is some method to this madness but so far there has been some mixed messages sent about which direction the Steelers want to go.

Start with this strange, meandering search for an offensive coordinator. NFL Network last week reported it was Matt Canada who would get the job. Then it was reported Canada was interviewing with Miami for the Dolphins' offensive coordinator job. That was a week ago, and since then we have seen sporadic reports of the Steelers interviewing various other guys.

OK, so they are doing their due diligence, right? That's how it would seem until Gerry Dulac reported the Steelers are looking for their offensive line coach first because they want to make sure the coordinator's blocking schemes are similar to those of the offensive line coach.

Wait, what? Why not hire the offensive coordinator first and let him be a part of the interview process to make sure the offensive line coach fits with that philosophy? There are some who think this is a sign the Steelers are going to emphasize the run game again or that the offensive coordinator will be a lame duck who is just there to appease Ben Roethlisberger in his last season.

Again, that's a whole lot of conspiracy stuff. And then on top of it all, the Steelers brought in a quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, and not only interviewed him but signed him. I don't know what role Haskins will play for the Steelers, but wouldn't it make more sense to make sure he fits whatever the new offensive coordinator is looking for in a quarterback?

Now, I understand that part of the process could be to satisfy whatever version of the Rooney Rule applies to hiring coordinators and it should be noted that Hue Jackson and Pep Hamilton — the two most prominent names reported to have interviewed with the Steelers — are both Black. That still doesn't explain why this process has taken so long if Canada is indeed their man.

 

They should have hired Canada by Monday or Tuesday and then figured out what he is looking for in an offensive line coach. And then they should have begun making decisions on the offensive side of the ball.

It may all end up in the right place, and given the Steelers' track record, I suppose they deserve the benefit of the doubt. But they seem to be making this process hard.

That's especially true since the plan for next season is dramatically different if Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey decide to return for one more year. They got help from the fact that Vance McDonald announced his retirement, something that will save about $5 million in salary cap room for next year.

I get that Roethlisberger and Pouncey need some time to ponder their futures, but the Steelers should put a timetable on it. At some point, a decision has to be made by both because it will severely affect the way they plan for next season. I know they have until early March before they have to make a decision, but the Steelers can't wait that long.

The offensive coordinator position is the first piece of the puzzle to be filled, and if they know their guy, they need to hire him and move forward. The offensive line coach position is far less of a priority because until the offensive coordinator is in place, there is no way to know what offensive line philosophy works with the overall scheme.

And with Mason Rudolph and now Haskins on the roster, the quarterbacks coach position is probably very important, as well. These are two younger players who need to be developed and need the individual attention that comes from a quarterbacks coach. If Canada is getting bumped up to the coordinator position, he can't serve as quarterbacks coach and be as effective as he needs to be.

The Steelers have been excellent at making smooth transitions and hiring good people. This week, though, they have seemingly been a little disjointed and not sure of how to proceed. Maybe they have taken many definitive steps behind closed doors and it all will work out fine, but from the outside looking in, that sure doesn't seem to be the case.

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