Hearing From RB Coach James Saxon

Earlier this offseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers allowed running backs coach Kirby Wilson to walk, ending up with the Minnesota Vikings after they released their own running backs coach, James Saxon.

Saxon wound up replacing Wilson as the Steelers’ running backs coach, but we haven’t heard much from him since he joined the team.

Yesterday, however, the Steelers posted an interview with him on their official website, which adds some insight into his priorities as a coach. You can listen to the whole interview here, but here are some highlights.

One difference between Wilson and Saxon is that Saxon was actually an NFL football player once upon a time, playing fullback for eight seasons. He thus has the unique ability to provide personal experience to his coaching lessons.

I prided myself as a player in being very, very intelligent in terms of what I had to do and what I was asked to do. There’s not going to be anybody tougher, there’s not going to be anybody out there who’s going to work harder, and at the end of the day there’s not going to be any regrets about what I brought to the table, and that’s the message I try to get across to my guys.

While he didn’t describe his policy on fumbling as “zero tolerance”, which is how the question was framed, he did say that “I don’t like the word”.

Of course, it might be difficult to have a zero tolerance policy on fumbling when you’re coaching Adrian Peterson, who has fumbled the ball nine times over the past two seasons alone, and 31 times in total in his seven-year career. Here’s what he had to say about fumbling and the responsibility of the ball carrier:

The one thing I get across in terms of that, when the ball gets stuck into your belly or you put it under your arm, you’re taking responsibility. Number one, the head coach is giving you a privilege, and you are carrying 52 other guys with you. The ball, when the play’s over, when the whistle’s blown, you have to have it, and get up off the ground with it.

Saxon talked about “paranoid awareness”, a term of his coining, which is a state of mind that a running back has to have when it comes to protecting the ball and keeping it safe from those who try to strip it out.

Fortunately, his main pupil had little trouble holding on to the football as a rookie, as Le’Veon Bell put the ball on the ground just once in nearly 300 touches. And Saxon seems to feel good about the stable of backs that he has to work with, even if LeGarrette Blount can use a ball control seminar.

Asked if the Steelers have the personnel to have a successful running game, he said “I believe that we have the people in this building who are going to be capable enough to do that”. Now it’s his job to take what he’s given to work with and hone it.

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • William Weaver

    I think Le’Veon Bell is going to blow up this year. With improved line play and his ability I think he will lead the league in rushing.

  • steeltown

    It is a good interview, I like his talk of ‘paranoid awareness’ sometimes ball carriers get too comfortable or even cocky when carrying the ball, especially carrying it with some success, players should always have a sense of paranoia and never let your guard down

  • dkoy85

    That’s a bold statement… I like it. As long as the line play continues to develop and Munchak can get 2 or 3 pro bowlers out of them I think Bell has all the tools to be a top rusher. He might not lead the league in rushing but he very well could lead in all-purpose yards for a RB.

  • cencalsteeler

    LeVeon Bell showed off his recent Steelers tattoo. Said he wanted to be a Steeler for life. Very nice statement from a person in a time where players tend to go wherever the money lies. A very impressive young man and I’m glad he’s on our team representing Steeler Nation. I hope his wish comes true.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Excellent! He’s there to win championships. If you have that attitude, all aboard. If you don’t buy in, get the hell out! That’s how I would explain it to the team, especially because it has become so much younger quickly. I’m am quite pleased.

  • ilamarca

    Where’d you see/hear all this?

  • joed32

    He did tweet about his Steeler tattoo but I haven’t seen a picture of it yet.

  • Rod Hedrick

    No Steeler has led the league in Rushing since Bill Dudley in 1942. If he leads the league in rushing Steelers are Super Bowl champs! I like Bell but that will be a tough chore. Munchak has his work cut out!

  • Steve

    Two All Pro players are likely in DeCastro and Pouncy. Having a third will be tuff to get, but If Munch brings along the OT at better run blocking and Pass blocking will be a formatable group.