Sometimes it seems as though, as long as you look hard enough, you are bound to find some direct connection tying every move the Pittsburgh Steelers make to an in-house move. This is especially true of the coaching staff, where they have employed a number of former players, including Jerry Olsavsky, who remained their inside linebackers coach.
Mike Tomlin hired Karl Dunbar, who coached under him with the Minnesota Vikings, but Dunbar was also a Steelers draft pick way back when, even if the didn’t ultimately play for them. Tom Bradley, their defensive backs coach, is the brother of their team doctor and a long-time Penn State coach.
The most recent example is new running backs coach Eddie Faulkner, who he revealed has been in the Steelers’ sphere of influence for a long time, going all the way back to his college career as a player. Now-offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner was at Purdue University at the time, and he heavily recruited Faulkner at the time.
“There was a part in there probably when I was in college and he was going to his different places and stops where we maybe lost connection”, he said of his enduring relationship with Fichtner, “but the relationship was still there because he just did such a good job in the recruiting process”.
“My parents still talk about him”, he said. “Once it got to a professional level where I was actually coaching as well, just from there, you saw his growth, and obviously him ascend to where he’s at now, so that’s been fun to see, just because it goes back that far”.
So as you can see, there almost always seems to be a tie in somewhere. And that includes Fichtner, who worked directly with Tomlin during their tenures as college coaches. While Fichtner was the offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, Tomlin spent two years there, first as the wide receivers coach, and then as the defensive backs coach. They both also worked at Memphis, though at different times.
Even Teryl Austin, the team’s new senior defensive assistant, has his ties. He worked with Bradley as a graduate assistant for a couple of years in the early 1990s at Penn State. Many of these coaches are also local products, such as Austin, a Sharon native who attended the University of Pittsburgh, playing for the Panthers where he would have shared a stadium with the Steelers.
The rare exception seems to be Darryl Drake, for whom I find no obvious ties with Steelers history, either directly or indirectly. The best I can come up with is that he worked under Bruce Arians with the Arizona Cardinals and was cut from a similar mold to Richard Mann, their previous wide receivers coach, whom Tomlin worked with in Tampa.