Courtesy of Point Park University

Friday Insider: Rooney’s hands on Steelers’ latest moves

It seemed like a cryptic response to a simple question.

At Wednesday's sitdown with Steelers president Art Rooney II, he was asked if any further coaching changes were coming after it had been announced Carnell Lake was stepping down as defensive backs coach.

“We are still working through contract situations with some of the staff members,” Rooney said. “As we’ve seen recently, you can’t count anybody out until the contract is signed. We’re still working through some of that.”

That has resulted in some pretty significant shakeups on the staff, particularly on defense.

We can take from all of this that offensive coordinator Todd Haley not coming back was a decision made by Tomlin. As for Lake being gone and John Mitchell basically being pushed aside, those seem more like things Rooney either had a hand in or insisted upon.

Haley was replaced because he not only couldn't find a way to get along well with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, he also clashed, at times, with other members of the coaching staff. Tomlin decided that in the best interest of the team, and the rest of the staff, Haley had to go.

Lake had to be a tough decision for Rooney -- and Tomlin. While he's not necessarily a Steelers legend, he's not far off. But it's not like the Steelers haven't let former stars who were on the staff go in the past.

Steve Furness comes to mind. So does Darren Perry. Heck, Joe Greene left the franchise in 1991 when he was passed over for the head coaching job given to Bill Cowher.

It happens. And it probably will happen again because the team does like to keep close ties to its former players. But when that happens, the players do have to understand the state of the current team has to take precedence over any loyalty.

MORE STEELERS

• In the case of Mitchell, this was a simple move to keep him around for another year while taking some of the workload off his plate. The 2018 season will be his 25th and likely, final, season with the Steelers.

The 66-year-old is one of the most respected position coaches in the league. He helped break the racial barrier at Alabama. His message still resonates with young players.

But the Steelers wanted to have someone in place who could pick up where Mitchell left off, hence the hiring of Karl Dunbar. Dunbar played for Mitchell at LSU. And he coached with Tomlin at Minnesota. It was a natural fit. - Lolley

• In terms of Bradley's hiring, he was a known commodity to both Rooney and Tomlin. His brother, Jim, has been a team doctor for the Steelers for decades. And the Johnstown native spent time around the team as a member of the media after he and the rest of the Penn State staff were let go in the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky situation.

He also has maintained a house in the South Hills, so he didn't have to go far for the interview. - Lolley

• So what happened with Alan Faneca and the Pro Football Hall of Fame? Well, he actually advanced a step farther this year than he had in previous years, making the final 10 in the voting process.

But, much like there was a receiver backlog in recent years, there's now an offensive lineman backlog. Four other offensive linemen made the top-10 this year, with only Joe Jacoby not making the cut from 15.

Faneca will eventually get into Canton. But it might take another year or three, which stinks for him. - Lolley

PENGUINS

Tie Domi, former NHL enforcer and friend of Mario Lemieux -- don’t forget that last part -- has been a frequent visitor to PPG Paints Arena in recent years.

Could his son be joining him soon? According to the New York Post’s Larry Brooks, the Coyotes are shopping Max Domi among others. Domi’s name has not been connected to Pittsburgh, as Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Derek Ryan and Mark Letestu have been most-mentioned as Jim Rutherford’s potential trade targets for a third-line center. But Domi is certainly intriguing.

The 12th overall pick in the 2013 draft is suffering through a brutally bad third NHL season with just three goals and 22 points in 53 games, to say nothing of his minus-21 rating. That’s a far cry from 2015-16, when he scored 52 points (18 goals) in 81 games as a rookie.

Domi is making just $832,500 in the final year of his entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent at season’s end. Could a change of scenery help? Still just 21, Domi has pedigree, untapped potential and, yes, a friend in the owner’s box. — Chris Bradford

• There is actually a sign posted in the Penguins locker room that displays exactly how the NHL mandates its players must wear their visors. Prior to this season’s strict enforcement of visor usage, Carl Hagelin may have been one of the league’s biggest violators.

Hagelin used to wear his visor like, well, a visor you’d see on a golfer. The only protection it offered was to his forehead, maybe. This season he’s had to wear it down, at least covering his eyes. He says it wasn’t difficult getting used to but is adamant it had no bearing on his slow start this season. Obviously, he’s turned that around with 11 points (eight assists) in his last 12 games.

At the University of Michigan he used to wear a full bubble shield but hated it because it would fog up on him. When he went to the AHL in 2010 and began wearing a visor again (he’d worn one in juniors in Sweden), he pushed it up because he says it felt freer and just stuck with it. Though the 29-year-old does not have to wear a visor, since he entered the league prior to the 2013-14 season, he says his wife and parents pressured him to keep it on. — Bradford

• The Penguins traveling party will almost double in size this weekend as the players are bringing their fathers with them to Dallas and St. Louis as part of the annual dad’s trip.  That should be some motivation, eh? -- Bradford

PIRATES

• One prominent agent told me Thursday night that he would hesitate to encourage any of his clients to attend the spring training being organized for players who remain free agents. Ken Rosenthal reported earlier in the day that one will be held at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

However, the agent was not entirely satisfied with the general liability insurance being provided to players and expressed concern over the training staff that will be provided since players' personal trainers are not allowed to attend. The agent confirmed that there is a long vetting process to be done before prominent agencies will agree to even allow their clients to attend. - Lance Lysowski

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