Over the course of the bulk of Mike Tomlin’s tenure as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he has not been one to do a lot of tinkering when it comes to his coaching staff. Changes are typically made gradually, and where needed, when needed.
He has been more open to making significant changes in recent years, however, even going so far as to giving coaches multiple jobs, dividing others, and even adding new positions, as he did for Teryl Austin, brought in for the 2019 season as Senior Defensive Assistant with an emphasis on working with the defensive backs.
One position that he elected to fold into another over the past two seasons has been quarterbacks coach, and that has certainly presented an interesting dilemma given the amount of inexperience that there was, and is, at the position. This season in particular featured 14 games started by second-year or rookie quarterbacks. Having your offensive coordinator trying to coach them is…not a great idea.
But how much did he really coach them? As I’ve written about in the somewhat recent past, young offensive assistant Matt Symmes has really taken on doing the majority of the grunt work associated with running the quarterback room, to the point where even Randy Fichtner himself, and the quarterbacks, have referred to Symmes as the quarterback coach.
Which raises the question, will he be formally promoted to the role of quarterbacks coach in 2020? Tomlin was asked about the position, though not specifically Symmes, during his Tuesday press conference earlier this week, and this is what he had to say:
“In terms of a division of labor from a staff standpoint, a quarterbacks coach being one of them, that is things that I evaluate as I assess the staff and how we worked and the type of foundation we need to lay as we move forward to 2020”, he said. “I am not opposed to that thought process, that discussion, that exploration”.
Frankly, I’m not sure it particularly matters, because we already know that Symmes is doing a lot of the work. Whether or not he has the formal title of quarterbacks coach, in many ways, he already is. That doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t potentially hire somebody else from outside of the organization to serve the role.
Another position that has been folded into another is that of outside linebackers coach, with defensive coordinator Keith Butler and defensive line coach Karl Dunbar splitting the responsibilities of instructing them since Joey Porter’s contract was not renewed. That transition, however, worked out pretty well, given the career years put in by T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree.