One of the first topics that I delved into when I began writing about sports a few years ago was the fact that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had a tendency to want to give his new coaches some new players for their position to help bring them along.
New coaches, then, meant new toys. When the Steelers signed Sean Kugler to be their offensive line coach, for example, they drafted Maurkice Pouncey in the first round. Jack Bicknell Jr didn’t get the same treatment a couple years later, but that was because the team already invested so much over that three-year period in the position.
When the Steelers signed Carnell Lake to become their defensive backs coach, they doubled down at cornerback in 2011 with Curtis Brown and Cortez Allen in the third and fourth rounds of the draft, respectively.
Remember former special teams coach Al Everest? Even for him, the Steelers ended up bringing in wide receiver Arnaz Battle and safety Will Allen, whom if I recall correctly were both special teams captains with their former teams, or if not, were still core special teams players.
New wide receivers coach Richard Mann didn’t get too much for his first season on the job—just Justin Brown in the sixth round—and in his second season, he saw two of his top three targets leave in free agency.
To try to make up for it, the team signed Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey in free agency, and then added the coveted ‘tall’ receiver in the draft via Martavis Bryant in the fourth round of this past draft.
This year, the Steelers have added two new coaches—running backs coach James Saxon and offensive line coach Mike Munchak—and both of them received some attention in this draft.
For Saxon, the Steelers added a big back in LeGarrette Blount during free agency, and then added Dri Archer in the draft, two players with seemingly very different skill sets that will expand the position’s repertoire.
With the Steelers returning eight offensive linemen from last season—all of whom started at least two games, excluding Pouncey, of course—for once, the line didn’t need much. Still, they managed to add an intriguing prospect in Wesley Johnson at the end of the fifth round.
Johnson is a player who has as much starting experience as you can ask for, making 51 starts in college. Even more intriguing is that he has started at both tackle positions, at guard, and at center. He is a player that doesn’t simply have the potential to become the every-position player that they projected Kelvin Beachum to be, he’s already shown that he can do it.
Archer and Johnson give the Steelers’ new coaches projects to work on as they ready their stables for the upcoming season. Perhaps it also gives the front office the chance to see how they bring a player along from scratch. But maybe most important is simply the fact that it adds depth and talent to their positions to give their new coaches a running start. After all, coaching changes are usually a symptom of unsatisfactory performance.