Changes are indeed coming to Pittsburgh. And even more could be coming, if things don’t change in 2019.
The firing of outside linebackers coach Joey Porter, a move that many assume was made by coach Mike Tomlin but that history tells us could have been made a level or two higher than that, feels like something more than the periodic shuffling of an assistant coach whose time to go had come. It feels like a warning shot at Tomlin.
Look carefully at Tomlin’s statement; nothing in there says Tomlin made the decision to not give Porter a new deal. And based on the story told by former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians regarding his own “retirement” from early 2012, it’s entirely possible that Tomlin wanted to keep Porter but wasn’t allowed to do so by ownership.
Given the broader context, with constant distractions on Tomlin’s watch and the stunningly bizarre decision by receiver Antonio Brown to go AWOL before a key Week 17 game, it could be that the organization has decided to impose on Tomlin’s team that kind of discipline that Tomlin in recent years hasn’t. And no member of the coaching staff showed less discipline in recent years than Porter.
On the field, it was his provocation of Pacman Jones during a playoff game that prompted a rule change. Off the field, an arrest two Januarys ago. Then there were the tales of Tomlin’s and Porter’s antics at local high-school football games.
Typically, coaches get fired when there’s a deficiency with the performance of the players for whom they are responsible. The Steelers’ outside linebackers are doing just fine. This just feels like it’s about something more than Xs and Os. It feels like it’s the first tangible step toward putting Tomlin on notice that a team that prides itself on having three coaches in 50 years is starting to be ashamed by the connection between lack of discipline and inability to compete for championships.