It’s a line we’ve heard repeatedly from Steelers fans: Pittsburgh is too cheap with its coaching staff. They don’t pay well enough and can’t bring in big-name coaches (although Mike Tomlin’s salary proves they’re willing to retain at least top talent). And it’s because of their money-saving ways that the team has the smallest coaching staff in the league.
The question I had is: is it true?
Now, we won’t be able to price Pittsburgh’s coaching staff. We do not have a complete list of salaries, these are not publicly available. What we box you have to at least look at the size of the coaching staff. Does Pittsburgh really have one of the smallest groups in the league? Or is it another tired trope?
With 2022 coaching teams combined, I went through and counted the number of coaches in each team. I also broke it down by side of the ball: attacking, defensive and special team coaches to see if the distribution tells us anything either.
Here are the results. I ordered this by the most total coaches in the league. Unfortunately I can’t make the columns sortable so you can break them down by the three sides of the ball.
Before we jump in, a few quick caveats:
*It should be noted that some coaches may change. The Patriots, for example, always seem to have a skeleton crew of names. Already as of this post, the Colts have made one additional defensive hiring and the chart has been updated to reflect that.
*You will notice that the total number of coaches never corresponds to the combination of offensive/defensive/special teams. This is because the head coach is not designated for either side of the ball. Sometimes teams will have assistants and won’t specify which side they work on, so I’m not putting them in either category either.
* Coaching changes still happened during the month of March and my information is as up to date as possible by cross-referencing team sites and Wikipedia pages. Sometimes each had inaccuracies and Wikipedia actually turned out to be generally more reliable. About three hours of work was just to pair up the current coaching teams.
If you see an error, please let me know in the comments below. Anyway, let’s get to the data.
|Crew||Total number of coaches||Stopped. Coaches||Def. Coaches||ST coaches|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||26||12||8||4|
|San Francisco 49ers||24||11||9||3|
|Kansas City Chiefs||22||ten||8||2|
|Green Bay Packers||22||ten||8||3|
|New Orleans Saints||22||11||8||2|
|New York Giants||22||ten||8||3|
|Los Angeles Chargers||21||ten||8||2|
|Los Angeles Rams||21||ten||8||2|
|New York Jets||20||8||8||3|
|Las Vegas Raiders||18||8||seven||2|
|New England Patriots||17||6||seven||2|
The Steelers, as you can see, are nearly bottom for the least football coaches. In this case, the Steelers staff accusation is accurate. They have just 18 coaches and don’t appear to have any plans to add more, one more than the lowest in the league held by New England, who are downright lacking key positions in their squad like offensive line coach. I also count their RB coach Ivan Fears who was supposed to retire but no official announcement was made and he is still listed on their website. Pittsburgh and Las Vegas are the only two teams with just 18 coaches. They and New England are the only teams that haven’t even reached the 20-coach mark.
For Pittsburgh, they have nine offensive coaches: OC Matt Canada, QB coach Mike Sullivan, RB coach Eddie Faulkner, WR coach Frisman Jackson, WR assistant coach Blaine Stewart, line O Pat Meyer, line O assistant coach Isaac Williams, the TE. Coach Alfredo Roberts and offensive assistant Matt Tomsho (Canada’s right-hand man who has followed him over the years).
Defensively, they have seven coaches: DC Teryl Austin, DL coach Karl Dunbar, LB coaches Brian Flores and Jerry Olsavsky, OLB assistant coach Denzel Martin, DB coach Grady Brown and assistant John Mitchell (who does fieldwork so I’m counting it here).
They also have a special teams coach, Danny Smith, who is assisted by guys like Stewart and Martin. But they do not hold official titles as such. Interestingly, the Steelers are the only football team that has only one coach carrying a special teams title. All other clubs have at least one officially appointed assistant while some teams have three or four.
The largest squad in the league goes to the new group that Mike McDaniel is forming in South Beach. Miami has 27 coaches, one of two teams with 12 on offense and the only team with 11 on defense.
So what does all this mean? Interpretations may vary. Having a great coaching staff doesn’t automatically make you a better team. There’s the idea of ”too many cooks in the kitchen” that some teams consider, I’m sure. Too many voices, not a clear enough message sent. Of course, a larger group of coaches can help solve problems faster, ease the burden on a handful of people, and provide more individualized attention. It also says nothing about other parts of the team’s organization like the analytics staff, of which the Steelers also have a small group there.
But based on the numbers alone, it’s absolutely true that for 2022 at least, the Steelers are among the smallest coaches in football. For the best or for the worst.