The Steelers announced on Thursday that they would be moving on from Offensive Coordinator Randy Fichtner. With that comes a new opportunity for the Steelers to change the scheme. This is the first time where it feels like Ben Roethlisberger is not at the focal point of this hire. Entering his age 39 season, Roethlisberger only has one year left on his contract. Now, that could very well be extended, but it is likely that the Steelers are making this hire with an eye past Roethlisberger.
There are candidates both internal and external that make sense for this opening, though four of the five offensive coordinators hired under Kevin Colbert have been internal promotions, and the fifth was Todd Haley, an Upper St. Clair native whose father worked for the team. So keep that in mind.
MATT CANADA, STEELERS QB COACH
The most obvious name that will be thrown around is current Steelers quarterbacks Coach Matt Canada. The Steelers have done this internal elevation often. Bruce Arians got the internal raise and Randy Fichtner did, too. With Roethlisberger’s time ticking, it is far from certain that Canada will get first dibs on this job. Adding more muddy waters to Canada is the fact that the Miami Dolphins interviewed him for their offensive coordinator job on Thursday.
Known as a motion guru, Canada has made stops at Pitt, Maryland, LSU, NC State, Wisconsin, and Indiana in his career. Pitt fans will remember the dominant 2016 offense that set up big numbers under Canada’s command. Canada was rocky at LSU as he and Ed Orgeron’s visions did not line up at all. It was an offense that ranked 76th in points per game.
Of course, the Steelers tried to implement Canada’s concepts this year to no success. Roethlisberger never felt comfortable with the heavy play-action and motion game it required. However, Roethlisberger did show growth with Canada’s RPOs over the course of the season. Should he be elevated to offensive coordinator, Roethlisberger will have to perfect the new tricks.
ANTHONY LYNN, FORMER CHARGERS HEAD COACH
If the Steelers want someone with experience, Anthony Lynn makes a lot of sense. The former Chargers head coach and Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator. In his first head coaching job in Los Angeles, Lynn was dubbed as a running game guru. For a Steelers team that has trouble with the rushing attack, it is hard to not see the appeal of Lynn. There is no direct connection between Tomlin and Lynn, but the experience and conditions are there to make this a possible hire at the offensive coordinator position.
LUKE GETSY, PACKERS PASSING-GAME COORDINATOR & QB COACH
A Munhall native, Getsy is a former Pitt quarterback and went to high school at local Steel Valley. The hometown connection seemingly does matter, as guys like Haley and Teryl Austin became big-time candidates thanks to their local roots. Getsy is another one of those guys. For this position, it has to be an intriguing option for the Steelers. Getsy was the offensive coordinator under Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State. That year, the Bulldogs ranked 69th in points per game.
Having been the coach for Aaron Rodgers the past two seasons and overseeing a prolific Packers passing game, however, Getsy clearly has to be a candidate of interest. Getsy brings with him impressive buzz around the league as a well-regarded coach moving up the ranks fast. The hire checks boxes for the Steelers and would make a lot of sense.
DARRELL BEVELL, LIONS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR & INTERIM HEAD COACH
One name that Mike Tomlin will know well is that of Darrell Bevell. Bevell was the offensive coordinator when Tomlin was the defensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings, these two have a clear relationship and connection with one another. Since that time in Minnesota, Bevell has been the offensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions.
If the Steelers go back to the well of experience and connections, Bevell makes a load of sense. Having worked with Brett Favre, Russell Wilson, and Matt Stafford, Bevell is no stranger to working with veteran quarterbacks. Bevell runs a primarily West Coast scheme, which at this stage in his career makes a lot of sense for Roethlisberger.
Still, Bevell has been known for slow starts, which is something the Steelers were lampooned with repeatedly with Fichtner at the helm. It is far from the perfect hire on paper, but the experience and fit make a lot of sense looking at Roethlisberger.
CHAD O’SHEA, BROWNS PASSING GAME COORDINATOR & WR COACH
The former Dolphins offensive coordinator was shunned to the side for Chan Gailey after the 2019 season, but there is plenty of reason to believe he could be a candidate. O’Shea worked under Tomlin while he was in Minnesota, so there is a clear connection there between the two. For O’Shea, it is hard to judge him solely based on his one season in Miami, given how barren of talent the offense was.
The long time wide receivers coach of the Patriots, O’Shea produced numerous talented wideouts for Tom Brady. The receivers continue to play well in Cleveland, too. The tenure for O’Shea at offensive coordinator is not there, so the Steelers would be taking a bit more of a risk with this one. O’Shea was criticized for a complex playbook in his exit from Miami. Maybe that was a learning experience, but the Steelers likely would not want an entirely too complex playbook to come through the doors.
AARON KROMER, RAMS RUNNING GAME COORDINATOR
Kromer is a dark horse to potentially get the job. The resume speaks for itself. Kromer has been the architect of multiple top offensive line, including the Saints and the current Rams offensive line that has rebounded in 2020. With a scheme heavily tailored to wide zone and a Sean McVay connection, Kromer may give the Steelers a nice blend of everything. First, there is the obvious offensive line position that is open. Kromer can help there. Second, Kromer worked with Tomlin in Tampa Bay as a senior assistant. Third, that McVay scheme has the perfect blend of modern concepts the Steelers may need offensively. Fourth, the Steelers want to revamp the running game. Finally, he has nearly three decades of coaching experience.
All in all, Kromer checks the boxes. It makes a lot of sense for him to be the hire, even if he isn’t as big of a name as some of the other candidates.
JIM CALDWELL, DOLPHINS OFFENSIVE CONSULTANT
The relationship between Tomlin and Jim Caldwell is long noted. The two are close and share a relationship going back to Tomlin’s days under Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay. Caldwell was only an offensive coordinator for two seasons with the Ravens in 2012 and 2013. The Ravens’ offense was in the bottom half of the league in 2013 while being middle of the pack in 2012, but Caldwell got a head coaching position with the Lions anyway.
If the Steelers are looking for experience and expertise, Caldwell makes sense. Caldwell is known for helping develop quarterbacks and being a strong leader in the locker room. The main issue with the hire is that outside of Peyton Manning’s prime, Caldwell has never overseen an offense that finished at the top of the league. Should Caldwell come on, the Steelers will move to an Air Coryell scheme and emphasize a power running game.
MIKE McDANIEL, 49ers RUN GAME COORDINATOR
If the Steelers want to go to a more modern scheme and hire a young hotshot candidate, Mike McDaniel might make a lot of sense. This is a guy who has zero strings attached to the Steelers organization and there are no connections to Tomlin’s staff. McDaniel oversaw the second-ranked rushing attack of the 49ers in 2019.
If McDaniel were to come on and bring the Kyle Shanahan scheme with him, the Steelers’ offense would see an overhaul. It would turn to a speedy, college-esque offense. It would mean lots of outside zones, play action, motion, and creativity. The Steelers’ offense would not be recognizable. It is a risky option, and McDaniel has no record as an offensive coordinator. However, Roethlisberger could have his weaknesses minimized in this offense. If the Steelers want a swing for the fences, this is a good place to look.
MIKE KAFKA, CHIEFS PASSING GAME COORDINATOR & QB COACH
If the Steelers really want to go out on a limb, they could get a young upcoming coach who is well regarded around the league. Mike Kafka is exactly a guy that would fit the bill. If the Steelers zero in on Kafka, it is because they are swinging for the fences. The Andy Reid tree may be hit or miss on the head coaching trail, but he often makes great offensive coordinators.
The Kansas City system is one that is quarterback-friendly, even absent of a Patrick Mahomes. Kafka is a hire that would be unprecedented in Pittsburgh under Tomlin. He is a young coach with no connections to the organization and no coordinator experience. That seems uncharacteristic of the Steelers, but with Roethlisberger’s years winding down and an eye towards the future, this might be a smart route.
PEP HAMILTON, CHARGERS QB COACH
With the firing of Anthony Lynn, it may leave one of the most promising quarterback coaches in the game searching for a new job. The Steelers would be amiss to not look into Pep Hamilton. Known for his exceptional work with Justin Herbert this season and his impressive work with Andrew Luck at Stanford, Hamilton has been around the scene and is well-tenured. Hamilton was the passing game coordinator for Michigan as well. The Steelers are heavily connected with that Michigan program, so a connection could be there.
Hamilton was middling with the Colts during his offensive coordinator tenure there. However, the offense was just Luck. There was no strong offensive line to complement anything they did. Hamilton checks the boxes of a potential connection, great work with young quarterbacks, and experience. That might be the natural fit for a team that will likely be on the QB market soon.
JAY GRUDEN, JAGUARS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR
Another name with a connection to Tomlin, Gruden worked on the same staff as Tomlin in Tampa Bay in 2005. The West Coast scheme that Gruden employs makes a lot of sense for Roethlisberger at this stage in his career. As a pure play-caller, Gruden has never been a shabby candidate. The 2013 Cincinnati Bengals were a top-10 offense under his watch.
If the Steelers want that tenure and experience, Gruden’s hire does make sense. He made the most out of his role in Jacksonville this year. He may keep that role under Urban Meyer, but if he does not, his performance gives lots of merit to this being a potential hire.