To the best of my knowledge, there has never been much of a reason reported or leaked as to why Pittsburgh Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin elected not to renew the contract of former running backs coach James Saxon.
Perhaps the best guess is because he knew that he was interested in bringing in the man he ended up hiring, Eddie Faulkner, who has never coached at the NFL level before but with whom he has been familiar. Faulkner also was Jaylen Samuels’ position coach in college, and the Steelers were impressed with his readiness as a rookie while learning to be a running back.
The new coach on the staff has not been shy about being himself and trying to introduce new ideas, and perhaps that is precisely why Tomlin wanted to hire him. He has hired a number of coaches coming from the college level who perhaps offer a different perspective, and now he is doing that with the running backs, with a young group at the position.
“Everything that I do translates to the game”, he recently told the team’s website. “I’m not out there exercising, but there’s things that I’ve picked up from other coaches, people on the internet, whatever. If I like it and I think it can help us I’m not afraid to use it”.
So, if you’ve got a good idea, put it out there on the internet. Faulkner may just find it and use it. if you’ve been watching the Steelers’ videos on their website, featuring clips from practice, you may have seen some of the drills that Faulkner has helped to introduce this offseason.
He probably can relate better to the Steelers’ young running back room as well, led by third-year James Conner. In addition to Samuels, there is Trey Edmunds, also in his third year, and rookie Benny Snell, Jr., who was a fourth-round pick.
“They’re totally receptive”, he said of his running backs. “The group has been awesome. They’re eager to learn. They’ve welcomed me with open arms in terms of the new ideas that I’ve brought and they bought in full-speed. I couldn’t ask for anything more in that regard”.
Conner would know better than anybody else how Faulkner might differ in approach and style from Saxon, but either nobody has asked him about that, or he hasn’t given an answer. Perhaps it ultimately doesn’t matter.
The bottom line is that he is here on the staff now, and I get the impression that he has the opportunity to put his thumbprint somewhat on this team. We already know that Tomlin is a fan of his, and will be receptive to his ideas. Will that reach beyond the running back room?