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Saunders: Hiring Internal Candidates Isn’t Always Steelers’ Way



The Pittsburgh Steelers will interview current Monday Night Football analyst Louis Riddick for their vacant general manager position, according to a report on Tuesday by NFL Network.

Riddick will be the fourth external candidate tied to the position, and likely the highest-profile, thanks to his tenure as an ESPN broadcaster. But Riddick also has the kind of player-development bona fides that the Steelers are looking for in the position from his time working as scout and personnel director for the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles.

The feeling around Pittsburgh amongst Steelers fans has been that the Steelers will likely go the internal candidate route, and pro scouting coordinator Brandon Hunt and vice president Omar Khan are both quality internal candidates.

But don’t be surprised if Riddick makes a strong impression. An excellent public speaker, Riddick has the kind of in-front-the-camera poise that goes a long way in today’s media environment, in addition to his front office experience.

There is a sentiment among Steelers fans that hiring from within is an ingrained part of the team’s culture, which probably comes from the team’s recent string of elevating assistants coaches to coordinators for four consecutive hires. But that hasn’t been the case when the team has made it’s most crucial hires, of general managers and head coaches.

When Chuck Noll retired in 1991, the team went outside of his lengthy coaching tree to bring in Bill Cowher from Kansas City. When Tom Donahoe was forced out in 2000, the Steelers brought Kevin Colbert in from Detroit.

Cowher and Tomlin are Pittsburgh natives and were likely at least familiar to the Rooney family, even if they hadn’t worked for the team. But when they hired Mike Tomlin as head coach in 2007, he came from outside the organization, with zero ties to the team or the city, and did so while the Steelers possessed strong internal candidates for the job.

That’s exactly the same kind of hire Riddick would be, and there’s nearly no question that he and Tomlin would be comfortable working together. Riddick has expressed his admiration for Tomlin in the past.

The other external candidates that the Steelers have interview thus far — Ryan Cowden, Ed Dobbs and JoJo Wooden — felt more like box-checking than serious contenders. 

But Riddick is a different story, and don’t be surprised if he makes the kind of impression that Tomlin did in his interview, and cause the team to buck the consensus logic in another crucial hire.

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