Steelers Name James Saxon as Running Backs Coach

Trades in the NFL normally involve draft picks, or at times players. But the Pittsburgh Steelers and Minnesota Vikings appear to be trading coaches.

  • The operative word above is “appear.”

Kirby Wilson of course departed from Pittsburgh for Minnesota to take their running backs coaching job. James Saxon held that role until Leslie Frazier was dismissed and with him his entire staff. Mike Tomlin has moved quickly to anoint Saxon as his running backs coach.

With his latest coaching hire Tomlin has again opted in favor of experience over potential. Saxon has 23 years of NFL experience divided between the coaching and players ranks. Saxon broke into coaching in 2000 with the Buffalo Bills, then moved on to coach running backs for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2001 to 2007. After that, he coached for the Miami Dolphins from 2008 to 2010.

Saxon also played as a full back and running back for 8 years, breaking into the league in 1988 as a sixth round pick with the Chiefs, where he played for four season. After that he played under Don Shula for 3 more in Miami, until finishing in Philadelphia with the Eagles.

Overseeing the continued development of Le’Veon Bell will be among Saxon’s first tasks in Pittsburgh. Saxon of course has a pedigree with power house running backs, having worked with Adrian Peterson. However, Saxon will also likely have input on whether the Steelers make a play for Jonathan Dwyer or Felix Jones who are set to become free agents this March.

Coaching Swaps Rare, But Not Unprecedented in Steelers History

Such coaching swaps are rare in Steelers history, but similar moves have occurred in the past. Tony Dungy won fame as the NFL’s youngest defensive coordinator in the 1980’s, until he resigned rather than accept demotion in 1988.

The man Chuck Noll tapped to replace him was Kansas City’s deposed defensive coordinator, Rod Rust. When Dungy became available Marty Schottenhiemer wasted little time in bringing him along to Kansas City.

But he didn’t bring him to KC as a defensive coordinator, only as a defensive backs coach. The coordinator’s seat of course went a budding young assistant from his staff on the Cleveland Browns – Bill Cowher.

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