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?
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.
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.