The Pittsburgh Steelers have done, comparatively, a lot of tinkering with their coaching staff over the past few offseasons relative to what has been the norm for an organization that is ordinarily defined by its stability. Some of those changes have been forced upon them, through retirements or coaches finding other opportunities, but many have also been voluntary.
One such move was the decision to move on from running backs coach James Saxon, who seemingly had a successful tenure with the Steelers over the past several years, and replacing him with Eddie Faulkner, who has no prior experience coaching at the NFL level. But that has never caused Tomlin to shy away from hiring a guy before.
One of his other more recent signings, in fact, was Tom Bradley. In spite of his long and extensive coaching history, all of it came at the college level. One of Tomlin’s most significant hires ever was Randy Fichtner, part of his original staff, who is now their offensive coordinator. He, too, never coached at the NFL level prior to that.
Now entering his second year in the offensive coordinator capacity, he was asked about some of the new coaches, or changes, that he will be working with in comparison to last year, and he had praise for Faulkner, who was the college position coach of 2018 fifth-round pick, running back Jaylen Samuels.
“Eddie Faulkner, he’s really been a pleasant surprise”, Fichtner said. “Any time you have had [a lack of] professional football experience, the transition, he transitioned a whole lot easier than I did, just in general, and I think he’s a great addition to our staff. He’s brought some new ideas, he’s brought some love of the position as a former running back, and I think he’s adapted really well to that group and that group’s adapted to him”.
Tomlin has previously said that Faulkner is somebody who had been on their radar for years—the two of them have even had a prior connection—so when he decided not to renew Saxon’s contract, he surely had Faulkner in mind for the potential to fill that role. And he also knew what he might be able to bring in terms of energy and ideas.
It’s all good now, but his ultimate job performance will be determined by his players—now including Samuels again—and what they do on the field. He does have a Pro Bowler in James Conner leading the way, and they also bolstered the position by using a fourth-round selection on Benny Snell, Jr.
The Steelers have experienced a lot of change on the offensive coaching staff. In addition to the change from Todd Haley to Fichtner as offensive coordinator, and Faulkner at running back, Richard Mann also retired as wide receivers coach, replaced last year by Darryl Drake. Earlier this year, Mike Munchak left the offensive line room, with his assistant, Shaun Sarrett, promoted to succeed him. Fichtner had high praise for him as well.