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Coaching Profile of New Steelers OL Coach Adrian Klemm

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The Steelers got their new offensive line coach on Monday when they promoted Assistant Offensive Line Coach Adrian Klemm to Offensive Line Coach. As the Steelers stayed internal, just like they did with the hiring of Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada, Klemm’s experience prior to Pittsburgh will be drawn into question. So, just who is Adrian Klemm, and what is his resume?

The Good

Klemm started off his coaching career at SMU and then went onto UCLA. Between the two stops, Klemm nearly has a decade of experience as an offensive line coach at the collegiate. He is by no means a guy getting his first opportunity to coach players. This is a seasoned coach who has five seasons at UCLA has a running game coordinator to boot. The experience factor for Klemm is a positive to what the Steelers are looking to do. His background in player development as a collegiate coach is also a positive.

Going on the lines of his player development, there are a few NFL players that Klemm produced. At UCLA, Kolton Miller, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Alex Redmond, Caleb Benenoch, Conor McDermott, Scott Quessenberry, and Jake Brendel all became NFL players. At the very least, it seems that Klemm has some level of player development to get these guys to the NFL level. At SMU, Kelvin Beachum and Josh LeRibeus were two linemen produced by Klemm. That gives him a strong nine players in the NFL thanks to player development. That is not shabby.

In addition, as former Steelers offensive lineman Trai Essex pointed out, the assistant coach often gets the young players while the main coach works with the starters. That means Klemm was largely responsible for the performance of Steelers rookie Kevin Dotson. That will inspire some confidence in Klemm’s abilities.

Then, there is the fact that Klemm did oversee some solid rushing offenses as the running game coordinator. His three year stretch between 2012-2014 is solid:

2012: 37th ranked rushing attack

2013: 35th ranked rushing attack

2014: 34th ranked rushing attack

Some other positives include Klemm’s connection to the West Coast. The Steelers have sorely lacked a strong presence out in the West Coast other than area scouts. Other members of the staff have ties to most of the other places in the United States, but the West Coast was the one place they were sorely lacking in that department. With the elevation to offensive line coach, Klemm can use his connections to help the Steelers get a better feel for what is happening on the West Coast.

Klemm was a three-time Super Bowl on some great offensive lines. He knows what they are supposed to look like. That experience absolutely matters. It helps when he played under a phenomenal coach in Dante Scarnecchia, who is known as one of the best offensive line coaches in NFL history. There were obviously things that Klemm likely picked up from Scarnecchia to help him as a coach.

Lastly, just listening to the man in his interviews, he is impressive. Klemm’s ideas on how to coach the position are modern and idealistic. That is not always anything, but having a leadership-like presence and more importantly, talking about the right concepts is always a good starting point for a good coach.

The Bad

There are things that are bad with Klemm, as well. The strongest of which are some stats put out by UCLA during his tenure.

In the final two years of his UCLA tenure, Klemm’s rushing offenses fell off a cliff. In 2016, specifically, the Bruins were one of the second-worst rushing attacks in the NCAA, coming in at 127th overall with only 84.3 rushing yards per game that season. It is truly that 2016 group that is the worrying part. The film was just as bad as the stats indicate. There were little holes created for running backs to run through. The biggest issue was a lack of polish in hand usage and pad level. The lineman was consistently held up as a result of poor pad level.

On a pass protection front, Klemm’s units gave up a total of 161 sacks over his five years with the Bruins. In his last two seasons, his unit only allowed 14 and 24 sacks respectively. However, in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons, the Bruins allowed 52, 35, and 41 sacks. The improvement at the end of his tenure is nice to see. The question is going to be how much blame is placed upon quarterback Brett Hundley during his 3 years in Los Angeles. The numbers drop off after Hundley departed, but Klemm never truly put together an all-around great performance in pass protection and the running game as offensive line coach.

Klemm was suspended for three months due to recruiting violations relating to private training sessions and housing with recruits. That in and of itself is not a huge concern, but his exit from UCLA is one that is a bit messier. Klemm was named in a lawsuit alleging mishandling of injuries and negligence. It states that two players who suffered concussion symptoms were singled out by Klemm. These lawsuits are still outstanding, and they are just allegations.

Klemm also received a show-cause order from the NCAA for Level II recruiting violations while at UCLA, which stemmed from him paying for private training sessions and housing costs for two Bruins prospects.

Other Things to Know

As run game coordinator, Klemm oversaw a power running scheme with the Bruins. It utilized multiple personnel looks out of many different packages and motion was a key part of that offense. It is possible that Matt Canada will not employ heavy use of a power running scheme, but Klemm has experience there and with motion. These philosophies match up. So, the hire makes sense from that standpoint. Canada and Klemm are unlikely to bash heads given their similar philosophies.

Many wanted the Steelers to go outside the organization for the hire, and that is acceptable. However, it is worth giving Klemm a chance. There are some warning signs here on his resume, but Klemm also has more than enough positives. Before condemning the hire, give Klemm a chance to prove himself.

Steelers

NBC’s Mike Florio Predicts Dim Outlook for JuJu Smith-Schuster in Free Agency

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Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio is not so sure Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is going to get the pay day he believes he deserves.

Florio joined The PM Team on 93.7 The Fan on Friday, and painted a dim picture of Smith-Schuster’s free agency prospects.

“If Juju wants to be paid like a No. 1 wide receiver, he’s going to be waiting a long, long time,” Florio said.

Smith-Schuster has expressed a desire to remain in Pittsburgh, but their dire salary cap situation had a made a continuation seemingly impossible.

Now that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has signed a new contract and provided the club additional financial flexibility, there may be a path for Smith-Schuster to return. Still, there will not be enough money available to pay him like one of the league’s elite wideouts. 

If that is what Smith-Schuster wants in Pittsburgh, he may be in for a rude awakening as Florio predicts.

Smith-Schuster led the Steelers with 97 receptions in 2020, while also tallying 831 yards and nine touchdowns.

Selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Southern California, Smith-Schuster has 293 receptions, 3,565 yards and 24 touchdowns as a Steeler. He was selected to his first and only Pro Bowl in 2018.

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Steelers

Steelers Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada on Run Game, Roethlisberger

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Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada has spoken publicly for the first time since his promotion in late January.

Canada joined the latest edition of The Standard, the Steelers’ behind-the-scenes web series, and discussed a number of topics, including fixing the run game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and his offensive philosophy.

There is no denying Pittsburgh produced the least successful rushing attack in football a season ago, averaging just 84.4 yards per game and 3.6 yards per attempt.

Canada recognizes the Steelers need to improve significantly on the ground, a mandate he implied came down from Team President Art Rooney II.

“He’s made it very clear that that’s got to get better,” Canada said. “When all of us realized that we didn’t get it done we wanted to with our running game and all of who are here are part of that. And we’ve got to improve upon it in a multitude of ways and we’re certainly focused on it. We’re globally studying who’s running the ball well. We’ve always believed in running the football anywhere that I’ve been. You win up front. I believe that. We believe that. I know Coach Tomlin believes that.”

Not only will the Steelers have to better impose their will in the trenches, but Canada knows they will also have to remove the predictability that plagued them last season, especially in the passing game.

“You have to be able to run the football when they know you’re going to run it,” Canada added. “And you have to be able to throw the football when they know you’re going to throw it.”

Canada also gushed over Roethlisberger, who the Steelers announced will be returning for the 2021 season on a one-year contract Thursday.

“He’s such a great competitor. He competes at everything he does and his competitive drive is so strong and so awesome to be around no matter what we’re doing,” Canada said of Roethlisberger.

He also praised the 39-year-old’s accuracy, which he believes sets Roethlisberger apart from his peers.

“And then just his accuracy. And I’ve said this to one of my buddies who’s a quarterback coach somewhere else. Young quarterbacks, I wish there was some way for them to be here and watch how he practices putting the ball in certain spots. It’s such a unique talent that he’s able to do it.”

While Roethlisberger’s new deal has provided the Steelers some much needed financial flexibility, they will still undoubtedly have some tough departures once free agency begins in earnest.

Regardless which players do or do not remain in Pittsburgh heading into the 2021 season, Canada insists his offense will be multi-dimensional and cater to whatever personnel the Steelers have on the offensive side.

“We are going through and looking at the foundation of our offense. And building an offense that will be conducive to whatever talent that we have,” Canada said. “I don’t believe you have a certain system that works and this is all we’re going to do and we have to have the players for that. We have the players we have each year. Our job is to score more points than the team we play on each Sunday.”

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Steelers

Steelers Sign Center J.C. Hassenauer on One-Year Deal

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have signed center J.C. Hassenauer to a one-year deal, first reported by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

An exclusive right free agent, Hassenauer was almost a lock to return to Pittsburgh in 2021. His new deal with the Steelers is worth $780,000.

Hassenauer proved a vital piece along the Steelers’ offensive line a season ago, seeing action in 15 games and making four starts. He was on the field for 23% of the team’s offensive stats, while also appearing on 50 special teams plays.

Prior to Pittsburgh, Hassenauer signed with the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2018, spending the first seven weeks of the season on their practice squad.

He played for the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American Football in 2019.

Hassenauer played his college ball at Alabama. He made just three career starts for the Crimson Tide, with his final coming in the 2018 College Football Playoff national championship game, a 26-23 overtime win over Georgia.

Hassenauer’s agent Blake Baratz confirmed the signing on Twitter on Thursday.

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