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The Forgotten Offensive Coodinator Candidate


Two weeks are gone, and the Steelers have yet to hire a replacement for departed offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.

And it appears that Mike Tomlin isn’t in a hurry to do so – which is against his norm.

Since Tomlin put together his initial staff in 2007, he has either had to hire or promote a coach five times.

Usually, Tomlin has moved quickly to fill the vacated position.

It took only eight days for Sean Kugler to be named as offensive line coach to replace Larry Zierlein, and 14 days for Al Everest to officially take over the special teams for Bob Ligashesky.

The only time Tomlin had to hire a coordinator, it took him one day to promote Arians from receiver coach.

The longest period of time Tomlin waited to fill a position was last year when it took him 29 days to replace Ray Horton with Carnell Lake as defensive backs coach.

Today (Feb. 3) marks day No. 14 since Arians’ contract wasn’t renewed, and it appears that it will still be a while before a replacement is in place.

Now, Tomlin has brought in Jim Caldwell and Todd Haley for courtesy interviews with other names like Hue Jackson and Alex Van Pelt floating around as possible candidates as well as current quarterback coach Randy Fichtner.

But as longer the search drags on, another name has to be strongly considered – Kirby Wilson.

As we all know, Wilson was critically injured when he suffered burns on 45 percent of his body and smoke inhalation after his house caught fire while he was sleeping on January 6.

Wilson has been in the hospital ever since and has had numerous surgeries, however, has been getting better, and recently started physical rehabilitation.

Tomlin would love to have Wilson run the offense, but his health has complicated things.

The question is, can the Steelers afford to wait for Wilson?

Sure they can, but only to a degree.

With any new coach, and especially one as important as offensive coordinator, there is a transition period needed.

However, when it is a candidate who has more than 20 years of experience coaching including the past five on the Steelers’ staff, that transition period isn’t as critical as it would be for somebody coming in from the outside.

Let’s face it, if it is either Wilson or Fichtner who takes over, the offense isn’t going to be drastically different. Sure, there will be some tweaks, but nothing that can’t be worked out during the spring even though the new CBA has extended the offseason by five weeks.

With 10 OTAs (down from 14), three mandatory minicamp practices and now only nine consecutive weeks of off-season workouts permitted, that is still plenty of time to “tweak” an offensive system.

And that provides plenty of time for Tomlin to wait for Wilson, or at least get a better grasp if he will have any chance to return to the team by the spring.

If it becomes apparent that Wilson won’t be ready, they have a safety net in place with Fichtner.

As noted before, the longer there isn’t an offensive coordinator in place, the better chance there is for an in-house replacement to be named, and a better chance for Wilson to get the job.

 Mark Kaboly
2/3/2012 at 1:19 p.m.




Author: Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly is the Pittburgh Steelers beat writer for the Tribune-Review. Mark has covered more than 300 NFL football games in all 32 NFL cities as well as four Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa, XLV in Dallas and 50 in San Francisco. A Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mark earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a specialization in journalism from California University of Pennsylvania. Mark lives in Port Vue with his wife, Jennifer; daughter Briella; and boys Rocco and Bugsley Pug

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