Now that Carnell Lake has decided to resign as the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive backs coach, it’s east to come up with a few candidates who might ultimately replace him and both have links to the organization.
As Alex Kozora has already pointed out, Rod Woodson is an obvious candidate to succeed Lake due to his long-standing connection to the Steelers. Lake aside, another obvious candidate to replace Lake would be Ray Horton, who was the Steelers defensive backs coach and assistant defensive backs coach from 2004–2010.
Horton left the Steelers to become the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals following Pittsburgh’s loss to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV and he lasted two seasons there. After his short stint with the Cardinals, Horton went on to serve different one-year stints as the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns and in between there he was the Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator for two seasons from 2014–2015. Last month, Horton interviewed with the Dallas Cowboys but reportedly wasn’t offered a job.
In the seven seasons that Horton spent in Pittsburgh as the Steelers defensive backs coach, he helped the defensive unit rank in the top 10 in the NFL in total defense each season, including leading the NFL on three occasions (2004, 2007-08). During that span, he also played a huge role in the development of now retired safety Troy Polamalu. The Steelers went to three super bowls and won two of them during Horton’s reign as the defensive backs coach.
Horton is also already very familiar with current Steelers cornerback Joe Haden thanks to the two seasons he was the Browns defensive coordinator.
Horton began his coaching tenure with Steelers as an assistant defensive backs coach in 2004 and was promoted to defensive backs coach in 2007 after Mike Tomlin was hired to be the team’s head coach. Horton’s NFL coaching career started in 1994 with the Washington Redskins as defensive assistant coach.
Prior to coaching in the NFL, Horton, a former second-round selection of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1983 NFL Draft, played in 147 NFL games, including 99 starts during his 10-year NFL career split between the Bengals (1983-88) and Cowboys (1989-92). He retired with 19 interceptions, 11 fumble recoveries, five forced fumbles, five defensive touchdowns.