Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Little More Seriously

All righty, then.

The Steelers have interviewed Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Mike Tomlin a second time.

Some people would say the second interview of an NFL head coaching candidate essentially represents a job offer.

We disagree.

It does represent, however, a pretty serious second date.

There will be no third interview.

The next phone call from the Steelers to Mike Tomlin will either be a job offer or an expression of thanks and best wishes.

Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls had never heard of the guy until a few weeks ago. Having gotten to know a little about him through media reports these past few days, however, he seems likeable enough. He's a Tony Dungy protégé. Tony Dungy was a Chuck Noll protégé, and what’s not to like about that?

Based on what we heard during a press conference last evening following his second interview, Tomlin says all the right things.

Still, Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls remain skeptical.

It’s one thing to say all the right things during a job interview or a press conference. It’s another to actually do the job.

As noted today by Ed Bouchette in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tomlin’s Vikings’ defense this past year ranked first in the NFL against the run, but it tied for last against the pass. Granted, this is always a dicey equation and cannot necessarily be taken at face value.

More interesting, perhaps, is the Vikings’ pass rush stats for quarterback sacks — a mere 30 — a total that is below the league average of 36.4.

That’s with a 4-3 defense. What does it all mean? We have no idea.

Yet Joey Porter’s Pit Bulls are beginning to wonder if it might not be time for the Steelers to switch from their existing 3-4 defense to a 4-3. The Steelers’ linebacking foursome this past year showed serious signs of deterioration, especially at the outside pass-rush positions. We expect the linebacking corps to be rebuilt very soon – perhaps this offseason.

Plus, it’s entirely conceivable that a core front four of Brett Kiesel, Chris Hoke, Casey Hampton and Aaron Smith would be highly effective. So, it seems, the Steelers might have the base personnel to switch to a 4-3 defense, even if it raises the following (major) question: Would that entail switching James Farrior to an outside linebacker position and having Larry Foote man the MLB position? Again, no idea.

Still, there is another reason to consider switching to a 4-3 defense: The Steelers divisional rivals have built their respective offenses to defend – yes, that’s the appropriate word – defend — against the Steelers’ brand of 3-4 defense. It’s time to cross them up.

We’re not really sure what else to say at this point, so we’ll leave the last word for this entry to Mike Tomlin:

“I'm a fundamentalist as opposed to scheme. I think football is a tough-man's game, it's an attrition game. You win by stopping the run and being able to run the ball effectively — and doing the things winners do, being a detailed-oriented football team, playing with great passion and executing.”