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Small Coaching Staff No More? Steelers Expanding Again



Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin as the Steelers played against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. (Mitchell Northam / Steelers Now)

At the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix last week, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin defended the size of his coaching staff, which has historically been one of the smallest in the league.

On Wednesday, it got a pretty significant boost in numbers, officially and unofficially. The Steelers formally announced the hiring of offensive assistant Glenn Thomas, who is the first man to hold that position for the team under Tomlin.

The longtime college coordinator and former Atlanta Falcons assistant will keep the Steelers’ numbers on the offensive side of the coaching staff static, as he’ll replace departed assistant wide receivers coach Blaine Stewart in keeping the offensive staff at 10 members.

But he represents a gigantic upgrade in terms of experience, both as an NFL coach and coordinator and at the collegiate level. He’s also worked for Mike Smith and Matt Rhule, among other coaches, proving the insight of different ways to do things that a younger coach like Stewart would never have been able to provide.

The Steelers also added to the numbers of their coaching staff somewhat slyly. Without a formal announcement, the team has added Gerald Alexander to the team’s coaching staff page on the club website as assistant defensive backs coach.

Alexander has been with the team since training camp last season, the team just never officially announced his hiring or his role. When it comes to the sheer number of coaches on a staff, the Steelers and Tomlin have faced criticism for falling behind their NFL counterparts. But in instances like Alexander, and there have been others in the same position over the years, the coaches were actually there in the building doing the work and just not getting the credit with a line in the media guide or on the team’s website.

Tomlin talked about the size of his coaching staff, and said that smaller is sometimes better in terms of keeping the group together.

I’d rather overwork them than underwork them, you know what I mean?” he said. “I think there’s benefit in small numbers. It’s easier to keep the group coordinated and on accord, to have that one voice that is critical and culture-building. So small is better for me, but you’d better have enough to get the job done and I realize that we’re probably on the smaller side as far as staffing goes but that’s the agenda for us.”

Tomlin also talked about how seriously he takes the development of his young coaches.

When you’re in a position of leadership, you’re responsible for the growth and development of those that work with you and be a part of their story,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to receive assistance from quality guys that nurtured my growth and development: Tony Dungy, John Gruden, Rod Marinelli, Monte Kiffin, others. And so I try to be that for those that I work with, to challenge them but also to support them and provide them with the opportunities to grow, to not have them in a box, to acknowledge that we’re all very much in development, players and coaches. You have to give an opportunity to put that development on display.”

Thomas is getting another shot at the NFL level after eight years in college. Alexander came to the Steelers with Brian Flores last year and is sticking with the opportunity in Pittsburgh.

By adding Alexander to their official staff list, the Steelers will technically grow their coach count by one this offseason. They also added to the staff in 2022, with the addition of assistant quarterbacks coach David Corley.

It seems that while Tomlin is content with the size of his coaching staff and the number of young coaches he is able to focus on the development of at any one time, the Steelers are moving toward the rest of the league in terms of overall staffing levels.