When the Pittsburgh Steelers announced the hiring and promotion of Adrian Klemm from assistant to head offensive line coach, many – myself included, I’ll admit – questioned the decision. But Zach Banner immediately defended the move. And in talking about Klemm in a recent interview on Steelers’ Nation Radio’s The Drive, posted to the team website, it’s obvious to see why.
Banner said his development and ascension into the starting lineup, netting him a two-year deal this past week, is in part due to Klemm’s coaching.
“My development in these past two years is a huge chunk to him,” Banner told SNR’s Matt Williamson and Dale Lolley.” Because people don’t understand. Head offensive line coaches, not only are they handling the whole offensive line, but they’re so deep into week-by-week, the scheme and the run and the pass protections and stuff like that, they don’t really get to work with developmental guys.
“Like I was when I first got here. My individual game, Chuks, Kevin Dotson being so successful in his first year, other guys stepping up and filling in for roles and things like that and their development like JC Hassenauer…a lot of that individual work came from Klemm because he was the one that had to do that when he first got here, Worked with guys on their pass sets, worked with their individual game.”
That’s one reason why the Steelers have made it a point to have two offensive line coaches for many years. It basically dates back to 2012 when Shaun Sarrett was hired with the label of coaching assistant but really served as a de facto assistant offensive line coach. He played an especially key role in 2013, basically taking over for the one-and-done Jack Bicknell Jr. That compelled the team to make a slam-dunk hire in Munchak with Sarrett serving as his right-hand man for the entire time they were together.
Offensive lines are the largest groups in the room. In training camp, you can have 17, 18 of them on the roster. It’s impossible for one man to be able to coach them all. So Pittsburgh would split them into two groups, tackles and interior linemen, for more individualized coaching and to maximize time. That carried over into the regular season with Klemm, as Banner points out, helping to mold the backups and younger players biding their time.
In keeping that idea going, the Steelers hired Chris Morgan to be Klemm’s assistant for this season. Morgan previously served as the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive line coach for the past six seasons. He and Klemm have been active on the scouting trail already. Klemm has gone and checked out small school prospects like Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Quinn Meinerz and North Dakota State’s Dillion Radunz. Morgan has gone south, checking out Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey and Texas A&M’s Carson Green.
A former NFL offensive linemen himself, Klemm takes pride in the details.
“From a technique standpoint, he takes a lot of pride in that,” Banner said. “Now, when it comes to the scheme and things like that, I’m excited about this whole offense. I want to kind of take the pressure a little bit off of Clem because that’s Canada’s job to be able to spread it amongst [RBs coach Eddie Faulkner] and [WRs coach Ike Hilliard], everybody.”
Matt Canada, like Klemm, received an offseason promotion from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, replacing Randy Fichtner.
Klemm has a big job to do in 2021. The Steelers’ o-line is undergoing major changes. Rightfully so, arguably, considering how much they struggled in the run game last year. And Banner recognizes things need to turn around in a hurry.
“When it comes down to our offensive line needs to get better. We need to get better. Like we know that not only as individuals but as a unit.”
Banner explained the challenges this offseason could present if it’s virtual again. It’s unclear if the NFL will follow the exact same path as a year ago with teams not meeting face-to-fact until training camp. After the season, Team President Art Rooney II floated the idea of holding those offseason programs at a delayed date. But no final decision has yet been made.
“We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time,” Rooney said in February. “I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”
Whenever the time comes, Banner says he’s excited to work with Klemm.
“I wouldn’t want to go into any other offseason like this, with this kind of challenge as a team, with anybody else other than Klemm. And that’s why they did the interview process. They checked out other coaches,. We met them and we met with people and stuff like that. At the end of the day, that’s a decision that Coach Tomlin made and I support that decision a hundred percent.”
It’s clear Banner has the full-backing of the hire. And Klemm deserves the right to be evaluated with a clean slate and not completely penalized for last year’s struggles. We’ll see what changes he implements. This could be the shake-up the Steelers needed and getting someone with NFL experience like him is a positive. Still, much of the same we’re hearing now is what we heard about the Sarrett hire: developed guys behind the scenes, worked hard, and loved coaching the details. So Klemm is no guarantee of success, either.
Listening to Banner is always a can’t-miss interview and the entire conversation is worth checking out. We’ll again leave the link for you guys here.