The Decline and Rise of the Steelers Secondary and Ray Horton’s Changing Fortunes

My what a difference a year makes.

A little over a year ago Steelers Nation was still smarting in the aftermath of a 9-7 season. While plenty of blame was to be passed around, one of the main culprits of the Steelers 5 game slide was the secondary.

The once proud unit, albeit in the absence of Troy Polamalu, stood in shell shock. The unit had failed to protect fourth quarter leads in five of the Steelers 7 losses , worst yet, members of the secondary dropped game-saving interceptions on not one but two of those loses.

While no one was ready to label these miscues as secondary coach Ray Horton’s “fault,” few wanted to sing his praises.

Horton did get a job interview for a position at a University in Texas, but Gerry Dulac reported on PG Plus that Horton had been encouraged to “find another job” by Mike Tomlin, and was only kept on the Steelers staff at Dick LeBeau’s urging.

That Was Then, This Is Now

A year later the Steelers are coming off a record trying 8th Super Bowl appearance, and while the secondary might been one of the Steelers short comings in their in ability to defeat Green Bay, the unit as a whole was never a liability to the Steelers in 2010.

Which made Horton a hot coaching commodity.

Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 fire zone-blitz defense was at center stage in Super Bowl XLV, with Dom Capers running his own version, and in this outing, to greater effect.

Dallas was reportedly interested in Ray Horton, but Ken Whisenhunt in the end convinced him to set sail for “Pittsburgh West.”

I do not pretend to know enough to evaluate Horton’s job as Steelers DB’s coach – he did a great job in bringing William Gay and Ryan Mundy along, not so much with Keenan Lewis and Joe Burnette but Lewis’ problems at least seem to be between the ears.

Nor do I pretend to offer predictions on how he’ll do as a defensive coordinator.

Even if I could, all of it would miss the point.

Horton’s transition in one year from cast-away to coordinator just underlines how much of a “what have you done for me lately” league the NFL is.

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