One of the things that I like to do, and I don’t know why, is to examine what the Pittsburgh Steelers under Mike Tomlin tend to do when they bring in a new member to their coaching staff. More often than not, they make some pretty significant investments to their position, almost as a welcoming gift, to give them the best chance of succeeding.
Matt Canada’s not going to get that as the Steelers’ not quarterbacks coach, but he does have two young players to work with who started a combined 14 games last season, including a former third-round pick who is entering just his third season, so I would argue this doesn’t need to be upgraded—yet.
However, for new wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard, he is getting a big gift in the form of Chase Claypool. Not only is the 6’4” Notre Dame product the largest wide receiver the team has drafted since the 6’5”, 220-pound Limas Sweed back in 2008, he is also the highest draft pick the team has put into the wide receiver position since trading up in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft to grab Santonio Holmes.
Although Holmes would only spend four seasons in Pittsburgh, for off-field reasons, he would have a very productive time there, and played a pivotal role in their claiming a Super Bowl title in 2008, putting on one of the great performances from the wide receiver position in the history of the title game, with a defining and iconic game-winning catch to cap off a classic drive.
Sweed…well, that one didn’t work out so great. But Mike Tomlin’s overall track record at the position—Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, Toney Clemons, Markus Wheaton, Justin Brown, Martavis Bryant, Sammie Coates, Demarcus Ayers, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson—speaks for itself. There are four Pro Bowlers in that list.
The latter three still remain with the Steelers and will be joined by Claypool to create perhaps the wide receiver room of the greatest pedigree in team history, including three second-round picks and one early third-round pick, all of them taken between 49 and 66 over the course of the past four draft classes.
And the team has also had a different wide receivers coach in each of those seasons. Richard Mann retired after the 2017 season, to be replaced by Daryl Drake in 2018. After his sudden an tragic passing during training camp last year, Ray Sherman acted as interim coach for the position, coming out of retirement to do so.
Hilliard now comes over from Washington after a long stint following a regime change in the nation’s capital, but he brings with him an intriguing resume that saw him get a lot of production out of rookies last season. The Steelers have a young and talented group, so the hope is he can get the most out of them. Claypool is his freshest face to break in.