Stability Of Coaching Staff Overlooked In Steelers’ Success

Arguably the single defining trait that has run through the course of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ modern history, dating back to the fateful 1969 season, has been consistency. So much of the history is ingrained into our memories, and our psyche, that it need not be repeated. Did you know, for example, that the team has only had three head coaches since then? Of course you have. You’re a Steelers fan.

But we don’t always appreciate the consistency and longevity that we see deeper down. The Steelers have not only one of the most condensed, but also among the most stable, coaching staffs in the entire league. Few teams can boast the longevity of some of their position coaches, for example.

I thought that this would be a good time now to reflect upon such thoughts now that we have hit the part of the offseason in which we begin to hear reports about teams with head coaching vacancies wanting to pursue coordinators and other coaches. Already, the Cardinals have requested permission to interview offensive coordinator Mike Munchak.

Coincidentally, offensive line coach has actually been one of the less stable groups during the Mike Tomlin era, and Munchak has been the stabilizing force, having been here for four years now, and sending three linemen to the Pro Bowl.

Offensive coordinator is another position that has had some turnover, though Ben Roethlisberger has only had to deal with two in the past 11 years—Bruce Arians, and for the past six, Todd Haley.

Another one of the ‘newer’ additions is Richard Mann at wide receivers coach, but Mann is as veteran as they come, and previously worked with Tomlin in Tampa Bay. And he has been here since 2013, though this will likely be his last, as he is expected to retire.

Tight end coach James Daniel is also thought likely to retire, and he is the longest-tenured coach on the team from the offensive side of the ball, having been the only coach Heath Miller ever knew. He has been here since 2004. Quarterback coach Randy Fichtner has been in that role since 2010, but has been on the staff since 2007.

Rounding out the offensive coaches is the running back coach, James Saxon. He was brought in in 2014, replacing Kirby Wilson, who after being passed over for the offensive coordinator position wanted to try his luck in another organization. He is currently with the Browns.

The defense is run by the old guard. While Keith Butler may only be in his third season as defensive coordinator, he served as linebackers coach prior to that for 12 years. When he was promoted, the linebacker duties was divided between two player alumni: Jerry Olsavsky and Joey Porter.

John Mitchell is the man, plain and simple. I’ll just say that. He is not only the defensive line coach, he is also an assistant head coach, and has been here since 1994. I’m not looking forward to him retiring.

Carnell Lake is naturally a fan favorite. After Dick LeBeau disciple Ray Horton left for a defensive coordinator position, the Steelers brought in Lake, a former cornerback and safety for the team.

Finally, there is Danny Smith. Another eternally popular figure, Smith has been with the team since 2013 and is one of the most experienced special teams coaches in the NFL.

While longevity is key, change is inevitable, and for the most part, when change has been brought about—internally or externally—Tomlin’s staff has been restocked with experience or familiarity. Mann, Haley, and Munchak are examples of the former, Lake, Porter, and Olsavsky the latter.

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