Mike Tomlin Not Shy About Giving College Coaches Their First Shot In NFL

With the Pittsburgh Steelers recently announcing the hiring of Adrian Klemm as assistant offensive line coach, a man who has never worked as a coach at this level despite having play in the NFL, it got me to thinking about Mike Tomlin’s previous hires. One thing is clear, and that is that he has never been afraid of hiring based on NFL experience.

Take Eddie Faulkner for example, whom he just hired to replace veteran NFL running backs coach James Saxon this offseason. Faulkner has never worked in the NFL before as a coach, though he was once signed by the Steelers in 2001 as an undrafted free agent.

Beginning his coaching career at Anderson State working with running backs in 2002, he would spend the rest of the decade at Ball State in a variety of roles, often involving the running backs, and even had some coordinating experience. He had been at North Carolina State since 2013, where he coached Jaylen Samuels.

2018 saw the hiring of Tom Bradley. Even though he has had a very length coaching resume, it had never included work at the NFL level prior to this past season as the Steelers’ defensive backs coach. He served in seemingly every possible role while at Penn State for over three decades, however.

But you can go all the way back to 2007. Randy Fichtner spent decades coaching at the college level before Tomlin brought him on board that year to coach the wide receivers. He moved to quarterbacks coach in 2010 and was promoted to offensive coordinator this past season, where he led the Steelers to the best red zone efficiency in the league for one of the highest-scoring offenses.

Shaun Sarrett, the Steelers’ new offensive line coach, was the assistant to that post since 2012, but prior to that had only worked collegiately. Carnell Lake, Jerry Olsavsky, Joey Porter, and you can even go back to Scottie Montgomery, all serve as further examples of Tomlin’s willingness to give coaches their first opportunities in the NFL.

Of course, that’s not how he always goes about doing it. In fact, he has consistently had a lot of variety between veteran and novice in his ranks, at one point having three former head coaches on his staff at the same time in Dick LeBeau, Todd Haley, and Mike Munchak.

Teryl Austin was another veteran signing this past offseason, and Darryl Drake as wide receivers coach replaced Richard Mann. Karl Dunbar worked under Tomlin when he was defensive coordinator in Minnesota.

Looking at the list of names of the inexperienced coaches, it’s been a mixed bag with Fichtner easily being the success story. How will Faulkner and company perform this season in new or relatively new roles?

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