If The Steelers Hire Anyone, Byron Leftwich Makes The Most Sense

If you’ve read or listened to me over the past few weeks, you know I’m not enamored with the idea of the Pittsburgh Steelers hiring a senior offensive assistant. Not that I’m deadset against it, there’s certainly value to be had, but the Steelers made their choice to stick with Matt Canada. Right or wrong, it’s their decision, and they should let him sink or swim.

But if the Steelers are going to add somebody, Bryon Leftwich is the most logical option. For several reasons.

One, the guy needs a job. A year ago, he was about to become the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach. But that fell through, reportedly after Leftwich wanted owner Shad Khan to replace GM Trent Baalke. A lesson in “take the job if it’s offered,” Leftwich returned as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator for 2022. His offense was a mess, far too conservative and run-heavy. The Bucs’ finished with the 25th-ranked scoring offense, got blown out by Dallas in the Wild Card game, and Leftwich was fired days after their season ended.

Now, he’s trying to find his next home. He was reportedly in the mix for the Baltimore Ravens’ OC job. That went to Todd Monken, two-time National Champion with the Georgia Bulldogs. Leftwich even looked to the college game, inquiring about the Notre Dame OC position. But that went to Fighting Irish tight ends coach Gerad Parker. I don’t know a thing about Parker but if a guy who was about to become a NFL head coach loses out to a college tight end coach for a gig, it’s usually a bad sign.

Leftwich finds himself in similar circumstances to Brian Flores last year. Obviously, not identical situations, Flores backballed by the league after suing the NFL and multiple teams for racial discrimination. Leftwich hasn’t been hired ostensibly because of his terrible season as OC. He’s a tough coach to sell right now.

Which could lead him to Pittsburgh. He has close ties with Mike Tomlin, playing for him as the Steelers’ quarterback in 2008 and 2010-2012. Tomlin’s made occasional mention of Leftwich and Leftwich has done the same. Ahead of the Steelers/Bucs Week 6 matchup earlier this year, Leftwich was asked what Tomlin meant to him.

“I learned so much from him. I can’t have more respect for the coach and the human being than I have for a coach or a player or really a person. He’s that unique. It was enjoyable to play for him. It’s motivational to play for him.”

He even added he’s borrowed “Tomlinisms” from him. An offensive assistant might not be ideal for him but if it’s the only opportunity he has, it’s nice to do in Pittsburgh where you know some of the faces and understand the expectation.

The Steelers could give Leftwich a Senior Offensive Assistant/Assistant Head Coach title. John Mitchell just retired, leaving the latter vacant, and Leftwich can be a catch-all gameplanning assistant along with Canada, QBs Coach Mike Sullivan, and the rest of the offensive coaching staff. Defining his exact role is a bit difficult to do but Leftwich could also help on gamedays with challenges and general in-game management. It’s a role Teryl Austin held and I believe Brian Flores had the same. Guys who have been a head coach or at least tried to put that hat on before. Flores was a head coach and while Austin never was, there was a time his name was in the mix for jobs and in 2019, Tomlin cited that as one reason why Austin was brought in.

“He’s also a guy that’s been on the doorstep of some head-coaching positions in recent years. He brings that know-how and that preparation, anticipating using him in terms of some situational things, be it replay and judgement in games to help us in a lot of ways, because that’s something that he’s been preparing for in his aspirations to be a head coach.”

Leftwich can say the same, coming extremely close to getting the Jaguars’ job for the 2022 season.

Like Flores, this could be just a stepping stone for Leftwich. A soft landing spot to rebuild his name a bit, stay in the league, and be part of an organization that’s always on the map. With a successful season and recommendation by Tomlin, Leftwich could probably easily find a job in 2024. There’s always the chance the Steelers move on from Canada after 2023, his contract expires after this year, and Leftwich could – in theory, anyway – be a successor. I don’t like hiring people with that in mind, it’s just bad business, but it’s a possibility that can’t be ignored.

It’s a marriage that would seem to work. And though Leftwich isn’t the only name that could be suggested, those possibilities are endless, he’s the one who makes the most sense.

To Top
error: Alert: Content is protected !!