One forgotten but weird aspect of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2021 season was losing offensive line coach Adrian Klemm with two games left in the season. Word leaked Klemm had accepted a job with the Oregon Ducks during the season and initially, he was going to stay on-staff until the Steelers’ season was over. But Tomlin allowed Klemm to leave early with two games left to play, having assistant OL Coach Chris Morgan run the show the rest of the season.
Klemm has suddenly made the jump back into the NFL, hired as an assistant in New England under Bill Belichick, who Klemm once played for in the early and mid 2000s.
An ESPN article from Mike Reiss highlighting the Klemm hire sheds light on what happened to his quick and odd exit out of Pittsburgh. Here’s what Barnwell notes about Klemm’s stint with the Steelers.
“Word out of Pittsburgh is that Klemm and offensive coordinator Matt Canada weren’t an ideal fit, and head coach Mike Tomlin knew it wouldn’t carry into 2022, so he green-lit Klemm’s early departure.”
“Weren’t an ideal fit” sounds like soft language for a rocky relationship. To be clear, Klemm was in Pittsburgh for more than one season, initially hired in 2019 to be Shaun Sarrett’s assistant o-line coach. When Sarrett was let go after two seasons, Klemm took over as the head guy for 2021. That coincided with Canada’s first year as offensive coordinator, promoted from QBs Coach to replace Randy Fichtner. But to hear Barnwell tell it, it sounds like the relationship was sour, leading Klemm to look for another job and Tomlin to do little to prevent him from going out the door, knowing a change was coming in 2022 no matter what. And it sure sounds like Tomlin was intent on keeping Canada over Klemm.
In Pittsburgh, the o-line coach and offensive coordinator need to have a close and lockstep relationship. Traditionally, the o-line coach serves as the Steelers’ run-game coordinator while the OC handles the pass game. There is no official title in Pittsburgh but that’s how Ben Roethlisberger referred to Mike Munchak during their time together. A reference from this 2019 Steelers.com article.
“Former assistant offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett’s challenge is to replace Munchak not just as the Steelers’ offensive line coach, but as their unofficial “run game coordinator,” a moniker Roethlisberger hung on Munchak last season.”
And in 2020, Team President Art Rooney II said the team has always divvied up run and pass game responsibilities but never bothered with the title. All of that is to say the o-line coach and offensive coordinator must be on the same page to marry both aspects of an offense, run and pass, and it seems like Klemm and Canada weren’t.
Pat Meyer replaced Klemm as the team’s offensive line coach in 2022 and did a nice job developing the front five. Good healthy played a key factor in their improvement but Meyer is a teacher, not a yeller, and molded young and new faces like LT Dan Moore Jr., C Mason Cole, and RG James Daniels. After some early growing pains, the group got better.
Meyer and Canada will be working arm-in-arm in 2023. For Canada, he’ll need the Steelers’ offense to take big steps forward in order to save his job while Meyer will need to build off the progress created in 2022.