Categorized | Featured, News

Steelers Hire James Saxon To Be New Running Backs Coach


The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t waste much time in replacing running backs coach Kirby Wilson as it was announced on Tuesday that former Minnesota Vikings running backs coach James Saxon will be joining the staff.

Here is Saxon’s bio from the Vikings website:

James Saxon is in his 3rd season coaching the Vikings RBs in 2013, looking to build off a 2012 season when Adrian Peterson re-wrote the NFL and Vikings record books en route to Associated Press NFL MVP honors. Peterson is only the 3rd Vikings player to garner the MVP, joining DT Alan Page in 1971 and Fran Tarkenton in 1975

Peterson’s remarkable 2012 season seemed unlikely when he suffered a severe knee injury to end the 2011 season at Washington (12/24/11). His comeback from the injury was as inspriational as it was groundbreaking. Peterson returned to the field for the season opener vs. Jacksonville (9/9) and ran for 2 TDs. Peterson ended the season with the 2nd-best rushing season in NFL history with 2,097 yards to garner NFL Offensive Player of the Year along with MVP honors. He matched his own team record with 10 games of 100+ yards and set a new NFL record for most rushing yards in a month when he went for 861 in December. He tied a pair of NFL records with 7 runs of 50+ yards , matching Barry Sanders in 1997 and had 7 games of 150+ yards , matching Earl Campbell’s mark from 1980. Peterson had a pair of 200-yard games to set a Vikings record and recorded a career-long with an 82-yard run.

Peterson’s record-setting season benefitted from the free agency addition of FB Jerome Felton, who enjoyed a career year by earning AP 2nd-Team All-Pro honors and a Pro Bowl berth for the 1st time in his 5-year career.

A former NFL RB himself, Saxon joined the Vikings in 2011 after spending time with the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and most recently the Miami Dolphins. Saxon has guided RBs to 9 Pro Bowls during his 13 seasons coaching the position and has had a RB break the 1,000-yard mark 7 times.

The Vikings running game continued to be one of the best in the NFL in 2011, as the team rushed for 2,318 yards, good for 4th in the League. Leading the team in rushing for a 5th-consecutive season was running back Adrian Peterson with 970 yards. Peterson set a team record for most rushing touchdowns in a career with 64, passing Chuck Foreman (52). He also scored at least 1 rushing touchdown in 6 straight games in 2011, a streak that is tied for second longest in team history. When Peterson was forced out of play by injuries, second-year running back Toby Gerhart filled in admirably, rushing for a career-high 531 yards and a touchdown on the season. He tied a franchise record when he recorded 2 receiving touchdowns in Week 15 vs. New Orleans. The following week in Washington, Gerhart scored his 1st rushing TD from 5 yards out.

While in Miami for the 3 seasons prior to joining the Vikings, Saxon tutored Pro Bowlers Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. In 2009, the Dolphins had the NFL’s 4th ranked rushing attack with 139.4 yards per game. Williams and Brown added a wrinkle into the Dolphins offensive game plan by using the Wildcat formation as a change-of-pace.  Williams posted 1,121 yard rushing to lead the team in 2009.

In Kansas City, Saxon found tremendous success with 3 of the franchises top backs. During Saxon’s 7 years in KC he helped 3 players (Priest Holmes, Tony Richardson and Larry Johnson) to 7 total Pro Bowls. Holmes and Johnson combined to break the 1,000-yard mark 5 times during his tenure. Holmes and Johnson are ranked #1 and #2 in Chiefs career yardage at 6,070 and 6,015 yards respectively and the duo have the top 4 single-season rushing yardage totals in franchise history- led by Johnson’s team-record 1,789 yards in 2006. Holmes holds the team mark for single-season TDs with 27 in 2003 and career TDs with 83 (76 rushing, 7 receiving). His 27 TDs set an NFL record at the time, which has since been topped. Holmes played his entire career, 2001-07, under Saxon with the Chiefs. Johnson set the franchise record for 100-yard rushing days with 30, edging Holmes’ 24.

Saxon entered the NFL in 2000 and was a running backs coach with the Buffalo Bills. Saxon spent time with Menlo College (1999) and Rutgers University (1997-98) before making the leap to the NFL.

Saxon entered the NFL in 1988 as a 6th round draft choice by the Kansas City Chiefs. Saxon would suit up for the Chiefs (1988-91), Miami Dolphins (1992-94) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1995) during his 8-year playing career. The South Carolina native played in 111 career games and rushed for 533 yards with 5 touchdowns on 145 attempts. Saxon added 69 receptions for 515 yards during his career.

Saxon began his collegiate career at American River Junior College in California (1984-85). He would go on to spend the final two seasons at San Jose State (1986-87) where he compiled 609 rushing yards adding 9 TDs on 118 carries. He also collected 78 receptions for 732 yards and 4 TDs. While with the Spartans for 2 seasons Saxon also managed to throw 4 TD passes.

He attended Battery Creek High School in Burton, South Carolina. Saxon is married to his wife Shannon and their son, Devin, played football at Harvard.

In essense, the Steelers traded running back coaches with the Vikings as that is where Wilson will coach in 2014.

Tags: , ,

About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Lamarr56

    Did he get fired from Minnesota?

  • Kevin Gobleck

    Great hire

  • Brandon James

    New head coach, so I’m guessing just new personnel all around.

  • PA2AK

    Impressive resume. He has experience not only with bettering established RB’s, but more so with developing players to their potential. So who makes out better in this deal? The Steelers landing a solid coach, Bell getting a great mentor, or Saxon for landing a job with the Steelers and the emerging Bell?!

  • PA2AK

    Would be interesting to have the insider knowledge on this deal. Wilson to Minnesota, Saxon to Pittsburgh. I’m sure everyone was just ‘looking for a change of scenery.’

  • chris ward

    Saxon has a good resume, nice hire by the Steelers.

  • steeltown

    Sweet!

  • steeltown

    It’s hard to say but kudos all around

  • Louis

    So, the Steelers and Vikings swapped RB coaches.

  • Iron Cadet

    Let’s hope so. Bet honestly I think any rb coach could’ve been coaching a.p and he’d still be a beast. So I hope that saxon’s success is not only because of petersons talents.

  • James Kling

    He doesn’t have ears.

  • steeltown

    Well yes, AP is AP regardless

  • Shawn Winbush

    Saxon’s resume starts before AP. He coached up some great RB in Holmes and LJ in KC, Williams and Brown in MIA,before AP. he isn’t a coaching one trick pony.lol, I think the hire will be positive.

  • Shawn Winbush

    Saxon’s resume starts before AP. He coached up some great RB in Holmes and LJ in KC, Williams and Brown in MIA,before AP. he isn’t a coaching one trick pony.lol, I think the hire will be positive.

  • dgh57

    I like what’s ending up being a trade of RB coaches as Saxon certainly has the resume and background to do the job!

  • dgh57

    I like what’s ending up being a trade of RB coaches as Saxon certainly has the resume and background to do the job!

  • Aric Brown

    I don’t love it… but I don’t hate it… Looks like the guy has a knack for getting the most out of his backs talent…. We don’t actually know how high Bells ceiling is, but it looks like we’ve got the guy that knows how to find out

  • joed32

    The whole staff got fired.

  • Jonathon Bert Schade

    Saxon’s normal workweek in Minnesota…”Adrian, hold onto the ball and run towards the goal line.” He won’t have it so easy here, but I’m glad for Kirby…sweet gig, dude!

  • LayDownTheHammer

    I hate when people give credit to position coaches solely because their players had good seasons/stats. Any fool could be AD’s RB coach and he would still be the same beast he is. Same with Manning’s QB coaches, etc. What the better indicator of a good position coach is how well he coaches them up – fundamentals, technique, fine nuances of his game (things that are subjective and have no quantitative measure, unfortunately). These may not lead to great stats (depending on a lot of things including dedication to the running game firstly), and natural ability/instincts can trump lack of coaching too (the “stuff you can’t teach”).

  • Berlusconi

    hilarious

  • PA2AK

    this would apply here if AP was the only RB he’s coached…but the guy has a solid resume, well before AP

  • LayDownTheHammer

    Williams, Holmes, Brown, Johnson, etc. aren’t slouches either. Another confounding variable on position coaches are the
    OC/DC and his system on the team and overall unit talent (e.g. Posluszny’s LB coach will never get love)

  • Iron Cadet

    Well then I learned something today haha

  • Matt Manzo

    Larry Johnson and Williams were handfuls! The fact that he got what he did outta those guys says way more than anything AP did!
    And Holmes didn’t come into the league an all star, he became one. That has to do a lot with coaching! This could be a better hire than we think!

  • T R

    So why did the Vikings let him go? for Kirby who aint done nothing for no RB, no pro bowls or nothing. LOL

  • Michael Pearce

    Not too sure about this one, but he is who I expected they were going to sign. Would have rather had Morris or Byner.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    i feel pretty confident in his resume though, there are some pretty big names on it

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I agree it seems to be a good hire and the job done on Priest Holmes says a lot.

  • Shawn Winbush

    he was part of Leslie Frazier’s staff… you know how it is..he goes, his staff goes!

  • Shawn Winbush

    let’s hope he helps Bell become a Pro Bowl back!

  • charles

    Tell Charlie Batch.

  • charles

    We got Tomlin from the Vikings, maybe they knew each other?

  • charles

    Very good question.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Why even have a RB’s coach when you have A Peterson….It’s ALL DAY AP he doesn’t need a coach or a decent O Line for that matter just give him the ball and he’ll do the rest!

  • Douglas Andrews

    They cleared house in Minn new coach and new staff. He wasn’t fired he just wasn’t retained with the new coaching staff.

  • Michael Pearce

    I like what he did in KC.

  • Virdin Barzey

    The more I think about this, the less I think it was about Haley and more about Tomlin. He wanted Bell and even though Lacy turned out fine, Bell is Tomlin’s guy. If Bell is going to be great, he will need a guy like this to take him to the next level. I like the move. This guy has worked with some really great RBs. I’m sure he will help Bell alot. The question is what this will mean for Dwyer and that bad vision of his.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Granted he or the other coaches were innovative in Miami, but when he was with KC I seem to recall a great O line, with perennial All-Pros (I’m getting old and can’t remember their names, but there might have been a HOF guy in there also). On paper it obviously looks great, but I thought they might want to go with the guy from the Texans.

    Oh well, if the O line plays much better in the future, he certainly won’t hurt anyone. And on the upside he could be great. Here’s hoping.

  • joed32

    Tell Charlie Batch that Minnesota’s entire staff got fired? He would know that.

  • joed32

    Tomlin was already gone when Saxon came to the Vikings but maybe somebody who knew both of them was instrumental.

  • T R

    was this a Haley hire, did he work under Haley in Kansas City..

  • joed32

    He was gone from KC by the time that Haley got there.

  • Brian 43

    Kinda off topic but .it it seems like it takes forever to get the young guys on the field could this be because the steelers have one of the smallest coaching staffs in the NFL

  • Don

    Looks like our gain then. Although to be honest, I don’t know how much a RB coach means anyway. Seems to me the O-Line is the biggest variable to the running game. In my mind, even more than the RB talent.

  • Douglas Andrews

    True look at the system they ran in Denver during the 90′s. T Davis was a monster but those other RB’s would probably have been back ups on another roster. That O line was athletic and they were all around 300 or less but man were they good.

  • DrakePirate

    not too sure what to think about this one !

If you enjoy our content & podcast, feel free to buy us a cup of coffee below.
Shop for 2012 Pittsburgh Steelers Nike and New Era Team Gear at Fanatics

Archives