New Steelers RBs Coach James Saxon Has A Resume That Speaks For Itself

When the Pittsburgh Steelers announced this week that James Saxon would be the new running backs coach, many in the fan base probable see him as just the man that didn’t screw up Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. After all, Peterson is so good that he doesn’t even need a running backs coach, right? Saxon, however, had success coaching NFL running backs long before Peterson came into league.

Saxon first began coaching running backs in the NFL in 2000 with the Buffalo Bills, but after just one season there, the entire coaching staff was turned over. The Kansas City Chiefs then hired Saxon in 2001 and immediately he made an impact.

The Chiefs signed free agent running back Priest Holmes that offseason after the Baltimore Ravens gave up on him as they had drafted Jamal Lewis in the first round of the 2000 NFL Draft. In his first season with the Chiefs, Holmes led the league in rushing with 1,555 yards and chipped in another 614 yards on 62 catches. His 2,169 total yards from scrimmage was also tops in the league that year.

In 2002, Holmes bettered his numbers as he rushed for 1,615 yards and caught 70 passes for another 672 yards. His 21 rushing touchdowns led the league that season as did his 2,287 total yards from scrimmage,.

In 2003, Holmes’ numbers dipped slightly, but he still managed to produce 2,110 total yards from scrimmage to go along with a league-leading 27 total touchdowns. If you owned Holmes in your fantasy football league in any of those three years, you likely owe Saxon a thank you note for the money that you won winning a championship. I know that I do.

Holmes wasn’t the same back after injuries and heavy usage took it’s toll on him, however, and the Chiefs drafted Larry Johnson in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft out of Penn State to succeed him. Once Johnson took over as the starter midway through the 2005 season, he picked up where Holmes left off and it resulted in him gaining over 2,000 yards of total offense in both 2005 and 2006.

In 2007, Johnson was done for the year after just eight games and several of the Chiefs coaches were out of jobs at the end of the season. After seven seasons in Kansas City, Saxon was out of a job, but he didn’t stay unemployed very long.

The Miami Dolphins hired Saxon in 2008 and veteran running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams combined to rush for 1,575 yards that season. Remember, Williams was 31 that year, but still managed to produce a 4.1 yard per carry average. The Dolphins went 11-5 that season and won the AFC East. They haven’t won it since.

Led by Williams 1,121 rushing yards in 2009, both he and Brown combined to produce over 2,100 total yards from scrimmage, but the wheels came off of both the following season. It didn’t help that Chad Henne was still the Dolphins starting quarterback there as well.

in 2011, Saxon was hired by the Vikings and Peterson, who suffered a nasty knee injury late that season, returned the following season to have a career year that included him nearly breaking the single-season rushing yards record that belonged to Eric Dickerson. That was Peterson’s sixth year in the league and he isn’t likely to have another one like it.

While Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will more than likely never have the kind of single-single rushing yards that Peterson had in 2012, he certainly should be able to easily top the 1,300 yard mark for several seasons in a row moving forward. In addition to that, with Bell being such a good receiver out of the backfield, 2,000 total yards from scrimmage certainly isn’t out of the question.

Saxon has gotten the best out of several running backs during his 14 years as an NFL coach and there’s no reason to believe that he won’t get the best out of a talented young running back like Bell. His resume says that he will.

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • steeltown

    Yes. I am happy.

  • steeltown

    Side note: I almost forget how dominate P.Holmes was back in ’01-’04… those numbers are insane

  • James Kling

    He’s had great runners to work with, but it seems he did help in the formative stages with Holmes and Brown, and helped get Ricky back on track. He’s got a nice resume that hopefully bodes well for Bell and whoever else we keep.

  • cencalsteeler

    If all things play out, Saxon makes Munchak look good and Saxon makes Munchak look good.

  • steellife007

    Yea I really liked Holmes, but KC had an amazing O-line which is why (although a good rb himself) Larry Johnson came right in after Holmes and did great too…..A.P. is an insane RB, absolutely beast, so don’t take this wrong either but the Vikes have a really good O-line and maybe the best blocking FB in the game right now….just ask Toby Gerheart lol. I am by no means dismissing the fact that we got a good rb coach bc it seems like a good hire…great resume and I love the fact that he played the position at this level……..but, I am more concerned with who our O-line coach is and I am thrilled about Munchak and can’t wait to see what he does…..I say this bc I believe that if the holes are there than most NFL starting rbs will get yrds and with what I have seen from Bell last yr I think if Munchak can eventually do what I think he can Bell will look amazing!
    I hope this coaching staff can bring it all together!

  • dgh57

    I think Saxon will get the best out of L. Bell when you consider that part of the reason he was drafted was because we considered him a good receiver from the RB position and some have compared him to Matt Forte. Throw in there the fact that P. Holmes put up WR type numbers as a RB certainly gives me hope that if he stays healthy that 2000 yards from the LOS will be no problem.

  • steeltown

    Hell yea, I think Munchak and Saxon are going to get this Offense back to playing Steeler football, if we give Ben a beastly ground game history shows we usually win

  • Dan

    With this guy as RB coach and Munchak as O-line coach we have a potential for a pretty good ground game this year….so long as we can keep enemy and friendly fire away the knees.