Steelers Should Consider Hal Hunter, John Benton As Offensive Line Coach Candidates

On Friday, the Pittsburgh Steelers fired offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. after just one season with the team and now we can all speculate as to who his replacement might be.

Immediately after the news of Bicknell’s firing broke, the first two names that I posted on Twitter were Hal Hunter and John Benton.

If you read this site prior to Bicknell being hired, you probably remember Hunter as being my own personal choice as the coach that I thought the Steelers should hire to replace Sean Kugler. Currently, Hunter is the assistant offensive line coach for the Indianapolis Colts and they of course are in the playoffs right now. Hunter, who hails from Canonsburg, PA, was let go by the San Diego Chargers last offseason after coaching there for seven seasons.

Here is a link to Hunter’s bio on the Colts website and below is an excerpt from it.

Last season, Hunter served as San Diego’s offensive coordinator/offensive line coach following five years as the offensive line coach and one season as assistant offensive line coach. In 2012, his offense featured quarterback Philip Rivers who threw for 3,606 yards and 26 touchdowns, marking his fifth consecutive season with 3,500-plus passing yards. Wide receiver Malcom Floyd also established his second-best receiving total for a single season with 814 yards while contributing with five touchdowns.

Under Hunter’s guidance, the Chargers offensive line garnered eight Pro Bowl selections, while blocking for three Pro Bowl running backs. From 2006-2012, the Chargers averaged 1,843 rushing yards per season and scored a total of 119 rushing touchdowns, which ranks second in the NFL during that span. In addition, the line ranked ninth in sacks allowed during that time frame.

As for Benton, he is still currently on the staff of the Houston Texans, but that is subject to change shortly now that Bill O’Brien has been named head coach. If he is indeed let go, he would be a perfect candidate for the Steelers and especially if they looking to implement the outside zone scheme like we thought Bicknell would run more of this past season.

Benton worked with the renowned Alex Gibbs during his time in Houston and his results speak for themselves.

Here is a link to Benton’s bio on the Texans website and below is an excerpt from it.

Houston set franchise records for total offense each year from 2008-10 and has registered the top three rushing seasons in franchise history from 2010-12, including franchise rushing records in 2010 and 2011. The Texans lead the NFL with 26 individual 100-yard rushing games since 2010 and have led the League in time of possession each of the last two seasons.

Benton’s line anchored Houston’s third consecutive 2,000-yard rushing performance in 2012 and cleared the way for Arian Foster to lead the NFL with 17 total touchdowns and 15 rushing touchdowns. Foster ran for more than 1,000 yards for the third consecutive year, accumulating 1,424 rushing yards behind the Pro Bowl play of left tackle Duane Brown, left guard Wade Smith and center Chris Myers. Brown became the first offensive lineman in Texans history to earn Associated Press All-Pro First Team recognition.

The Texans ranked fourth in the AFC with 28 sacks allowed and set a franchise record with a League-best 32:53 time of possession in 2012. Overall, Houston’s offense averaged 372.1 yards per game to rank seventh in the NFL, its fourth top-10 performance during Benton’s seven-year tenure.

  • Drew

    I say give Shaun Sarrett a shot.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    Two great candidates. I could also see them promoting from within, but I wonder if they’d rather bring in a heavy hitter from outside the organization.

  • JT

    If they really believe in Beachum, I think Shaun gets the nod. But if they aren’t sold, I see them bringing someone else in.

  • David Edward

    Agree with you on that if the the report is true that he took over mid-season.

  • r8erh8er

    While at it, bring in the Texans RB coach as well

  • gene mann

    It going to be very curious to see who the steelers add as their OL coach

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Benton is the best choice, hands down! Provided they want to go with more zone blocking.

  • srdan

    Well, there go our chances of getting sammy watkins. I really like the kid.

  • JMG4

    Like the idea of Benton but what about his boss Rick Dennison. He was the Oline Coach in Denver when someone new was running for 1000 yards every year. He wass also the OC at Houston the entire time Benton was the OLine Coach. His teams have only averaged under 4 YPC once and that was his first year on the job in Denver with a yearly average of 4.5. Over his time his team has averaged 30 sacks per season. He is a favorite of mine.

  • RW

    We all know how Tomlin values pedigree….

  • Ike Evans

    yeah the Indy O-line coach is doing work cuz those guys basically suck but play better then alot of more talented lines…also the Packers Oline coach must be pretty good because all i hear about is how weak that line is but lacy has THE BIGGEST holes

  • Callentown

    Good stuff Dave. As with most of us fans, I’m just not close enough to speculate on assistant coaches at the 0-line level. Thanks for giving us a glimpse..

  • Callentown

    Seriously! I was looking for an article on this site to post something about Watkins after last night. Just . . . . damn. Kid can BALL!

    Doubtful he will be there when the Steelers pick, but I have to say, based on stats and what I’ve seen this season, the fact that he’s not 6-5 should not stop from drafting him. Kids a beast.

  • Brendon Glad

    Well mike T. Is usually beyond reproach in most circles, but man is that guy poor at hiring coaches. He cannot hold a candle to bill cowher in that regard.
    I have an idea…pick an o-line coach who does not come from an offense that sucked. Yeah, i know the sucky ones are usually more available, but i say “figure it out.” Either promote an o-line assistant from a good offense, a college coach from a good offense, a fired head coach, or a retired oline coach from a good offense. Just to mix up the formula a bit.

  • HopalongCassidy

    How about J.B. Grimes. the o-line coach at Auburn ? He made them the best run-blocking o-line in college football.