When Mike Tomlin talked in his end of regular season press conference he talked about change coming. Everyone knew that meant not only in personnel but also in coaching staff. Today, we saw the first of those changes as Mike Tomlin announced that Joey Porter would not be retained.
Mike Tomlin made this statement:
“I have informed outside linebackers coach Joey Porter that we will not renew his contract. These are difficult decisions when it comes to someone like Joey who has meant a lot to this organization as both a player and coach. I want to thank Joey for his coaching efforts over the past five years on our defensive staff. We wish him the best in his future coaching career.”
The decision needed to be made and arguably could have come one year too late. Those that listen to the FPC Steelers podcast know our thoughts on his production at the position so far.
The Steelers have spent plenty of resources on the outside linebacker position and have not produced enough results. T.J. Watt had a breakout year, but this was expected thanks to his athleticism. Bud Dupree is equally athletic but much more raw and had never developed under Porter.
Anthony Chickillo was a defensive end protected to move to outside linebacker, but never saw his talent maximized. Lastly, the team drafted Jarvis Jones in round one. Despite his athletic limitations, the team clearly thought they could develop his knack for finding the quarterback.
So, while Watt had the stats to support keeping Porter, the underlying issues with Porter showed that the team needed to move on.
On top of that is the aspect of Mike Tomlin. Tomlin gets the label of being “buddy buddy” with his players. No one will deny he is a players coach. However, this season that seemed to go over the top where he gave his players an inch, and Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell took miles.
This starts at the top where Joey Porter is friends with Tomlin and may have worn out his welcome but stayed because of Tomlin’s loyalty to him. Those locally know of a story involving high school football that speaks to this.
With that in mind, to see Tomlin let a friend go because he was not delivering was the tough but needed decision by Tomlin to install the idea that he can still crack whips when he needs to. Hopefully for the Steelers this is a start to Tomlin winning back his players, and showing backbone in the organization.