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Steelers Analysis

Underrated McVay Disciple Could be Perfect Steelers OC

The Pittsburgh Steelers want to find the right offensive coordinator. Can former Rams OC Liam Coen end up being the guy?



Pittsburgh Steelers OC Liam Coen
FILE - Then-Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen coaches players before the Rams play against the Seattle Seahawks in an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. Coen is now offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Kentucky NCAA college football team. (AP Photo/Jeff Lewis, File)

The Pittsburgh Steelers have shown serious interest in attacking the Sean McVay tree in interviews. From the reported interest in Zac Robinson to the interview for Thomas Brown, two out of the three first candidates that were linked to the job are tied to that tree. But there is another interesting name that could pique the interest of the Steelers. It’s former Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen.

As another branch of the Sean McVay tree, Coen came up as assistant wide receivers and quarterbacks coach with the Rams from 2019-20, then bounced to Kentucky as offensive coordinator in 2021 before going back to L.A. as the Rams OC in 2022. It wasn’t a great year for the Rams in 2022, and Coen decided to return to the college ranks at Kentucky this past offseason. Coen has some NFL play-calling experience, but not much, and may prefer to work in the college ranks at this point.

But Coen has New England roots and worked up from there to get to where he is now. His first FBS job was with Kenny Pickett’s former offensive coordinator while at Pitt, Mark Whipple. That is a fascinating connection and obviously creates some interesting parallels for anyone who is looking for the quarterback background. From there, he becomes the offensive coordinator at Maine before landing his first NFL job with the Rams under McVay.

With those backgrounds, Coen’s version of the McVay tree has some more flavor than say, Brown’s does on film. He works with the pro-style, vertical-based routes that Whipple brought and pairs it with the wide-zone, under-center play action offense that McVay runs. But he has followed McVay’s lead towards turning to more gap runs as well. This is a versatile offense that looks to create mismatches and while based out of 11 personnel, the condensed formations and heavy-use of motion showcase how Coen learned under McVay.

It is the odd branch of the McVay tree. After just one year as Rams offensive coordinator, Coen left to go back to Kentucky, but it seems he has some interest in returning back to the NFL. He interviewed for the Bears job before Shane Waldron officially took that gig, so it is certainly not out of the question that the Steelers could put in for an interview and try to land Coen.

If you are looking at it from a Pickett-specific perspective, working with someone from the Whipple tree makes sense, too. It’s almost the best of both worlds. Someone with an idea of the background that Pickett came from and how to coach it, while running the McVay-based offense that keeps the run game continuity and eases the burden on Pickett with the usage of motion and play action.