Assessing the Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 NFL Coaching Staff

By Dan Vasta in Sports
| August 24, 2021 2:35 pm PST

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most successful franchises in the history of the NFL. Mike Tomlin has done an exceptional job since taking over for Bill Cowher, who took over for Chuck Noll.

That is why there has been a consistent success rate. Three coaches since 1969 are unheard of nowadays. The Steelers don’t always live up to expectations, but they remain competitive every season; even when they fall short of a deep postseason run.

Tomlin has yet to post a losing season, which is remarkable, but reaching only one AFC championship since 2011 is not good enough.

Ben Roethlisberger isn’t getting any younger, so it will be up to Tomlin and the coaching staff to put together another playoff season.

Here is my Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staff analysis for the 2021 NFL season.

Mike Tomlin – Head Coach

One of the best coaches in the league is on his way to Canton as a Hall of Fame coach. Tomlin needs to stay there for Steelers nation to feel comfortable about their potential.

The amount of success the Steelers have achieved has kept the fans hopes up. Just look at what Pittsburgh has done under Tomlins’ watch.

  • 9 playoff appearances
  • 3 AFC title game trips
  • 2 Super Bowl trips
  • 1 Super Bowl win
  • 0 losing seasons

Tomlin won the AFC North last season despite the competition from Baltimore and Cleveland. The division is one of the best in the league, and many believe the Steelers will struggle to stay afloat.

The Steeler coach showed two seasons ago how great he can be. He had to start Devlin Hodges and Mason Rudolph for most of the season, and they missed the postseason but finished 8-8 when they looked like a 5-11 team on paper.

Tomlin surprised many before, and it may take some additional magic if they want to become threats in the division again.

Top Steelers Assistants

The Steelers coaches have been remarkable over the years, and the consistent production has allowed the players to improve every week. Tomlin has managed the egos well over the years, but he isn’t the only one.

Keith Butler has been around the franchise since 2004, and he will lead one of the better defenses in the NFL. Matt Canada will be dialing up the plays on offense with several youngsters ready to flourish.

The solid mix of young players on both sides of the ball make it possible for veterans such as, Ben Roethlisberger and Cameron Heyward, to lead the way for these coaches.

Keith Butler – Defensive Coordinator

Keith Butler is a veteran coach that has coached in the AFC North since 1999. The Browns used him as their linebacker coach for a few seasons. The Steelers then had him at the same position until he received the bump to defensive coordinator during the 2015 campaign.

The production we have seen over the years has been impressive. In 2020, this unit was specifically nasty. Check out their key defensive stat rankings.

  • 21.2 points allowed per game (5th)
  • 310.8 yards allowed per game (3rd)
  • 9.09% sack percentage (1st)
  • 3.21% interception percentage (3rd)

This was despite some key injuries, too. If they continue to make strides, many will argue they are the best in the game.

Pittsburgh needs a healthy T.J. Watt to tee off on opponents in the backfield. His size and athleticism are off the charts, and he has displayed his best performances against top competition.

Stars like Watt will always make life easier and much more enjoyable for Butler.

Matt Canada – Offensive Coordinator

The Steelers offense has talent at wide receiver, and the youngsters rank among the top trios in the league. Chase Claypool, Juju Smith-Schuster, and Diontae Johnson could go bonkers with Ben Roethlisberger.

Canada has extensive experience coaching youngsters at receiver. We saw proof of that at games against Indiana, Northern Illinois, Wisconsin, NC State, Pittsburgh, LSU, and Maryland.

Canada has been creative at getting the ball out quickly, but they need to be more balanced.

The running game was the worst they have had in decades. Benny Snell and James Conner ended as failed experiments.

If the drafting of Najee Harris doesn’t improve the production, they will rank among the league leaders in the fewest yards gained once again.

Other Steelers Assistants for 2021

  • John Mitchell: Assistant Head Coach
  • Eddie Faulkner: Running Backs
  • Ike Hilliard: Wide Receivers
  • Adrian Klemm: Offensive Line
  • Alfredo Roberts: Tight Ends
  • Mike Sullivan: Quarterbacks
  • Chris Morgan: Assistant Offensive Line
  • Blaine Stewart: Assistant Wide Receivers
  • Teryl Austin: Senior Defensive Assistant/Secondary
  • Grady Brown: Secondary
  • Karl Dunbar: Defensive Line
  • Jerry Olsavsky: Inside Linebackers
  • Denzel Martin: Assistant Linebackers
  • Danny Smith: Special Teams Coordinator
  • Matt Tomsho: Quality Control Coach
  • Garrett Giemont: Conditioning Coordinator

The notable Steelers assistants coaches worth mentioning are Karl Dunbar and Mike Sullivan.

Sullivan spent time with the Giants and Buccaneers before becoming the QB coach for the Steelers. Dunbar also is a tremendous assistant and had success at LSU under Les Miles and then at Alabama under Nick Saban.

Dunbar has also spent time with the Bears, Jets, Vikings, and Bills. Mike Tomlin has done a great job communicating the strengths and weaknesses of the franchise, so this remains one of the bright spots on the team.

2021 NFL Season Outlook for the Steelers

Pittsburgh heads into the 2021 NFL season with realistic expectations of competing for a playoff spot. Many people have written the Steelers off before, but Tomlin has often had the last laugh.

Pittsburgh has built a winning tradition for decades, and the health of Ben Roethlisberger is what is holding this team together.

When Ben stays on the field, the franchise is better off.

Their stellar defense has kept them in several games similar to the Chicago Bears over the years. While they haven’t had the struggles on offense at quarterback like the Bears, the pieces are available for improvement.

The AFC North will be fun to watch. Despite having one of the more difficult schedules entering the season, it should be an exciting season ahead. This team has too many successful coaches to post a losing record.

Everybody has already picked Cleveland and Baltimore to finish ahead of Pittsburgh, giving them even more of a chip on their shoulder. As an underdog, Tomlin and the Steelers often play at their best.

Get ready for the 2021 NFL season with more coaching staff analysis below.

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