Coming off a tough season in which they’re likely to miss the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ coaching staff could look different in 2022. We already know they will have to officially replace offensive line coach Adrian Klemm, who has already left to begin his new job at Oregon. He may not be the only one either. To that point, Mike Tomlin was asked by Steelers.com’s Bob Labriola to discuss the pros and cons of in-house promotions versus out-of-house hires.
Tomlin’s answers were by no means shocking but are good to file away for what could be an eventful offseason. Here’s what he said about the pros of each type of hire.
“The pros of hiring someone with from within is the potential continuity of relationships already established,” he said via the team website. “The pros of hiring somebody from the outside is the new idea component or the new perspective component, and then that somebody has an opportunity to add to the whole with a different perspective and a different experience.”
Pittsburgh has been a heavy continuity team, often promoting from within. Keith Butler waited over a decade to replace Dick LeBeau as DC, the only two defensive coordinators Mike Tomlin has ever had. In the Tomlin era, Bruce Arians, Randy Fichtner, and Matt Canada were all in-house promotions, though Canada was with the team for just one season before moving to OC. Only Todd Haley was an outside hire. The in-house moves have extended beyond the coordinators. Along the offensive line, Shaun Sarrett and Klemm went from assistants to head guys.
Like any other club, there’s been a number of out-of-house hires, too. Mike Munchak was among the splashiest and most effective, helping to create and lead one of football’s best offensive lines during the 2010 decade. And there’s been a smattering of assistants with recent names like RBs Coach Eddie Faulkner, DL Coach Karl Dunbar, and TEs Coach Alfredo Roberts.
Tomlin discussed the negatives of in and out-of-house hires, too.
“The negative of hiring from within is that transition is not always a bad thing. That uncomfortable feeling as you build relationships and get to know new people and are challenged by things that new people bring isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s a good thing. And oftentimes you lose that when you’re promoting from within. The negative of hiring from the outside is the unknown. You know, the mesh, the relationship component of it.”
On the job since 2007, Tomlin has made to make a long list of coaching changes, big and small. Pittsburgh has been criticized for relying on in-house hires too often or Tomlin hiring guys he knows and coached with while moving up the ranks. As Tomlin said, the downside to the outside hire is the lack of relationships, so leaning on people he knows and has been around minimizes that risk.
Pittsburgh could make several in-house promotions this offseason. Chris Morgan should be considered the favorite to be the Steelers’ offensive line coach in 2022, as a respected coach who served in that role for years with the Atlanta Falcons. If Keith Butler retires or is not retained, Dunbar or Teryl Austin could be promoted to replace him. And if Canada is truly a one-and-done OC, don’t be shocked if QBs Coach Mike Sullivan is promoted to be his replacement.
While fans wouldn’t like either of those moves should they happen, Morgan nor Sullivan are Steelers’ lifers. They were hired mere months ago.
Tomlin told Labriola he evaluates all options, inside and outside, before making an official hire.
“You need to be open to people getting an opportunity to elevate and rising above their present circumstance and being capable of doing the job. But you also need to be open to getting to know somebody new, who’s bringing the skill-set to the profession that could add value to the group.”