Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has shown a proclivity over the years for hiring coaches directly from the college ranks. Randy Fichtner would be the most prominent example. An original hire from his inaugural season, he has moved from wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.
The latest college hire was Matt Canada, who has a length college resume at a number of institutions, brought on board this year to take over the quarterbacks coach position, but he is only one of a handful of players hired in the past few years who have a similar story, like Tom Bradley.
And when you get those coaches, you also have a tendency to get players with whom they were connected at one point or another. Eddie Faulkner, for example, was hired last season as running backs coach. He had spent the past several seasons at NC State, where he coached Jaylen Samuels, whom they drafted the year before.
This year, the Steelers added another player with whom Faulkner worked at the college level, though even further back in his timeline. That would be Derek Watt, the team’s new fullback, heading into his fifth season after signing a three-year contract to leave the Los Angeles Chargers.
Faulkner only spent one season at Wisconsin prior to leaving for NC State, back in 2011, but that overlapped with Watt’s rookie season there, but the middle Watt brother actually redshirted that season. His on-field time would come between 2012 and 2015 before being selected in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Chargers.
So Faulkner will have two players in his room with whom he has worked before in some capacity. While Canada is only the quarterbacks coach, he also has multiple players on the team that he has worked with, including James Conner, the team’s starting running back, Derwin Gray, a lineman from Maryland when Canada was interim head coach there in 2018. Karl Dunbar is also coaching Isaiah Buggs, whom he coached at Alabama.
Does this mean anything? Well, no, not a lot, necessarily, but especially when it comes to younger players, it does make things a bit easier on them, knowing that they have someone in their corner. During his rookie season a year ago Buggs admitted that having Dunbar was of aid to him.