“The Story” on recently hired Pittsburgh Steelers running backs coach James Saxon is the Steelers-Vikings coaching swap of Kirby Wilson for Saxon. That’s fine because such coach-for-coach flips are rare in the NFL. But Saxon was also present for some key moments of Steelers history, albeit as a player for opposing teams.
- In that sense, Saxon stands in good company.
Nor is this a recent phenomenon. Ray Horton, Dick LeBeau, Bill Cowher, and Chuck Noll both played and coached against the Steelers before coming to Pittsburgh. Darren Perry played and coached for the Steelers and coached against them. Mike Mularkey hold’s the grand slam here, having played both for and against the Steelers AND having coached for and against them.
- So Saxon’s past history vs. the Steelers isn’t to be held against him, but rather explored, if for no other reason than lack of real Steelers news.
Saxon Helps (or at Least Doesn’t Hurt) the Emperor’s Last Hurrah
Saxon’s first game against the Steelers came in late November of 1988 as a rookie with the Kansas City Chiefs. KC’s record stood at 3-9-1 – and they were favored. Yes, Noll’s Steelers were nursing a 2-10 record, yet they were to go 3-1 during the final quarter of ’88, offering a latent prelude to the 1989 revival. Saxon logged one run for zero yards – yep Gerald Williams and Keith Willis were tough ones, but he did catch 4 passes for 35 yards.
And Saxon again earned himself a footnote in that ’89 Steelers story book season, serving as the understudy to the sensation sweeping the NFL, Christian Okoye. The real story of that game of course was Bubby Brister’s unexpected return from injury, and rookie linebacker Jerry Olsavsky filling in for injured Hardy Nickerson and stopping Okoye single handedly during a late 4th quarter Steelers goal line stand.
- Saxon only had 2 carries for 10 yards that day – maybe things might have been different had Marty given him one more?
Saxon, Present at the Dawn of Cowher Power
The next time Saxon would face the Steelers would be in 1993, as a member of the Miami Dolphins. Records, however, do not show Saxon recording a catch or a carry, in the game where Rod Woodson made of his Hall of Fame caliber game-sealing interceptions.
Saxon’s final time suiting up vs. the Steelers came in 1994, when the Steelers played the Dolphins in a game where Bill Cowher shocked the NFL by benching/resting Neil O’Donnell in favor of Mike Tomczak. Tomczak played what was perhaps his best game as a Steeler, leading Pittsburgh to a in what he termed a “shoot out” overtime victory of 16-13.
- For the record Saxon had five catches for 15 yards in that game – perhaps Dan Marino should have called his number one more time?
What’s the sum total of Saxon’s damage inflicted on the Steelers? Well, take a look:
|Saxon’s games vs. Steelers were nothing to write home about
In other words not much. Saxon was indeed present for some key, if under the radar wins of the late Noll and early Cowher eras of Steelers football, but his role was little more than that of a bystander.
Fear not, Steelers Nation. Saxon will be anything but a bystander in Le’Veon Bell’s development.