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Pittsburgh Steelers coaching candidates to replace Mike Tomlin in 2024

Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has been one of the best coaches in the NFL since he took the job. Despite more than a decade of winning seasons, however, circumstances have changed in Pittsburgh. With the NFL coaching hot seat warming up, it’s time to start evaluating Steelers coaching candidates for 2024.

Tomlin has done incredible work in Pittsburgh. He went 10-6 in his first season and then won the Super Bowl the following year. Most remarkable of all, of course, he doesn’t have a single losing season from 2007-’22. However, change is sometimes necessary and much like the Philadelphia Eagles once parted ways with Andy Reid, Pittsburgh could do the same with Tomlin.

  • Mike Tomlin coaching record: 170-100-1 (.631) in regular season with the Pittsburgh Steelers

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Let’s dive into our Steelers coaching candidates for 2024.

Identifying top Pittsburgh Steelers coaching candidates

Jerod Mayo, New England Patriots assistant coach

NFL: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One common trait among the best Steelers’ head coaches is leadership. It’s what helped keep Pittsburgh’s locker room together through us-and-downs, including unwanted distractions caused by some disgruntled players. Leadership in the building and a head coach who holds both himself and players accountable is one of the defining qualities Pittsburgh will be looking for in its next head coach.

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Mayo brings that and more. When he conducted his first head-coaching interview with the Philadelphia Eagles, he blew the organization out of the water with his football IQ, leadership and communication. It’s a sentiment from a first meeting that other NFL teams have shared. Mayo also comes with rave reviews for his work ethic from Bill Belichick, an endorsement that will matter to the Steelers’ organization.

Like Tomlin and Cowher, Mayo would operate more as the CEO-type head coach rather than a play-caller for either side of the ball. While that means risking a lack of continuity at offensive coordinator if his first hire has great success, culture matters. The Steelers’ locker room needs a new voice and Mayo would be a fresh face who could perfectly follow in the footsteps of his predecessors.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Wolverines

Syndication: Detroit Free Press
Credit: Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Jim Harbaugh would be one of our favorite Steelers coaching candidates to replace Tomlin. This is an organization that cares about team culture and having a leader who could command the room, but results and mentality also define this franchise’s storied history. Jim Harbaugh will bring physical football back to Pittsburgh and there’s no denying his track record of success.

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  • Jim Harbaugh NFL coaching record: 44-19-1 in regular season, 5-3 in playoffs

Harbaugh is very interested in making an NFL return, he’s flirted with teams in each of the past two seasons. Pittsburgh would be an ideal landing spot for him from the standpoint of stability. This is a franchise that has only had three head coaches since 1969, a level of job security that no other team can match.

As for why Harbaugh would be an ideal hire for the Steelers, his work with quarterbacks matters the most. Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick thrived with Harbaugh working one-on-one with him and he’s done the same for J.J. McCarthy. While the Steelers might not be able to land one of the premier quarterbacks in the 2024 NFL Draft, Harbaugh is the kind of coach who can maximize the abilities of whatever starting quarterback the team gets him.

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There is a drawback with Harbaugh. He clashed with ownership and the front office in San Francisco. While the Rooney family does an outstanding job letting its football people handle that side of the business, Harbaugh’s history of causing friction with his colleagues is worth noting and would be a point of discussion during a Steelers coaching search.

Bobby Slowik, Houston Texans offensive coordinator

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Houston Texans
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Bobby Slowik has been one of the NFL’s breakout coaches in 2023. There are also very few people in football who’ve spent more time learning from Kyle Shanahan. Slowik first started working alongside Shanahan with the Washington Commanders (2011-’13) before following him to San Francisco. He quickly climbed the ladder from offensive assistant (2019-’29) to pass game specialist (2021) before he served as Shanahan’s offensive passing game coordinator in 2022.

Hired by DeMeco Ryans as the Texans’ play-caller, Slowik had a massive task in front of him. While rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud had plenty of talent, the Texans’ receiving corps was unproven and its offensive line was a mess. Fast forward to December, Stroud is Offensive Rookie of the Year and the Texans’ offense has improved leaps and bounds from where it was a year ago.

YearPPGYards per Play3rd Down RateRed Zone TD Rate
Houston Texans offensive comparison before and after the hiring of Bobby Slowik

On the one hand, Slowik’s inexperience as an offensive coordinator might be an issue. However, the Steelers’ organization does have a track record of striking gold with coaches who lacked a ton of experience. Tomlin was the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator for one season in 2006 before becoming Pittsburgh’s head coach. Before that Bill Cowher had only spent three seasons as a defensive coordinator before the Steelers hired him.

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Slowik has created a top-10 passing offense despite Houston sorting through countless rotations along the offensive line and this offense has stayed on track despite injuries at wide receiver. Stroud deserves tons of credit, but Slowik’s play-calling and scheme make life easy for a quarterback and the quick passing game also helps receivers get open. All of that is what the Steelers’ offense needs.

Eric Bieniemy, Washington Commanders offensive coordinator

NFL: Washington Commanders at Seattle Seahawks
Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

There have been countless excuses provided for why Eric Bieniemy hasn’t been hired as a head coach. Among them, some around the NFL believed that Bieniemy’s success was a byproduct of being with Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. Let’s take a quick look at the Kansas City Chiefs offense with Bieniemy as the offensive coordinator versus Matt Nagy as the offensive coordinator

  • Kansas City Chiefs offense 2022: 29.2 PPG, 6.3 yards per play, 48.9% third-down conversion rate, 71.08% red-zone touchdown rate
  • Kansas City Chiefs offense 2023: 22.5 PPG, 5.6 yards per play, 47.24% third-down conversion rate, 56.25% red-zone touchdown rate

The numbers speak for themselves. Now, let’s turn our attention to the Washington Commanders. While they haven’t had one of the league’s best offenses in 2023, Bieniemy has done quality work with starting quarterback Sam Howell in his first season as the starter.

  • Washington Commanders offense 2022: 51.06% red-zone TD rate, 84.7 QB rating, 222.5 gross passing yards per game, 62% completion rate
  • Washington Commanders offense 2023: 60.53% red-zone TD rate, 85.6 QB rating, 266.6 gross passing yards per game, 65.8% completion rate

If the Steelers want to maintain their culture with a hard-nosed coach, Bieniemy is that guy. While Reid and Mahomes offer rave reviews for Bieniemy’s offensive mind, game preparation and coaching, he also has a reputation for being hard on players. Then again, discipline and accountability from an offensive-minded coach might be exactly what Pittsburgh needs.

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