The Pittsburgh Steelers just lost their assistant head coach and senior assistant this offseason with the retirement of John Mitchell and the departure of Brian Flores, respectively. The Cleveland Browns, in the meantime, are adding to their coaching staff with a Pittsburgh native.
The organization announced earlier this week that it has named Ray Ventrone their new assistant head coach and special teams coordinator. If the name sounds familiar to you, it should, though perhaps not for the exact reason you might be thinking.
His younger brother, Ross Ventrone, did spend several seasons with the Steelers from 2013 through 2016. Nominally safeties by position, both brothers were standout special teams aces during their playing careers. Big brother “Bubba”, however, immediately pursued a coaching career when his playing days were done.
Both products of Chartiers Valley, each attended Villanova, and each, five years apart, originally signed with the New England Patriots as undrafted free agents. Each in their own time held stints elsewhere, though Ray had the more robust overall career.
Ray spent four seasons with the Browns as a player from 2009 through 2012 before finishing his career with the San Francisco 49ers. He returned to New England as an assistant special teams coach in 2015 before landing the special teams coordinator role with the Indianapolis Colts in 2018, a role he held until his recent move back to Cleveland.
Ventrone replaced Mike Priefer as the Browns’ special teams coordinator. They previously did not have anybody serving in the capacity of assistant head coach, so that is a new role for head coach Kevin Stefanski’s coaching staff.
He had a notable stint as the Colts’ special teams coordinator. Under his watch, he saw three different players earn All-Pro honors during his time there. Perhaps he’ll hire little brother Ross to be his assistant special teams coach?
The Browns finished 31st in the NFL last season in field goal percentage at 75 percent, so Ventrone will have his hands full in getting 2022 fourth-round kicker Cade York on the right track. Their punt coverage was also lacking, ranked 21st in net yards per punt (below the Steelers in case you were wondering). That included the fifth-highest touchback percentage.
Not every player who is great at what he does is able to translate that successfully to the instruction of communicating that to others. Ventrone has already established himself as a talented coach who gets results, however. The Browns are hoping that he can help them turn their special teams units into a strength again as they once were.