Steelers Announce Retirement of Longtime Assistant Coach

James Daniel

Photo by NFL via Getty Images James Daniel of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

On Wednesday the Pittsburgh Steelers announced the retirement of tight ends coach James Daniel. The 67-year-old was hired by former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher in 2004 and remained in his position when Mike Tomlin took over in 2007. He spent 17 seasons with the black and gold.

“I wish James all the best in his retirement following a long, productive coaching career in the National Football League,” said Tomlin in a statement. “I worked with JD for the past 14 years and he coached a bunch of great tight ends, not only here in Pittsburgh but also in Atlanta and New York. His experience provided our tight ends group and our coaching staff with invaluable lessons throughout his career. He has been a tremendous part of our staff from my first day and I wish nothing but continued success in his retirement.”

James Daniel’s NFL Coaching Career

Daniel’s NFL coaching career got underway in 1993 in New York, where he spent four seasons as the Giants’ tight ends coach. He joined the Atlanta Falcons in 1997, where he spent the next seven years, serving as tight ends coach for all but one of those seasons. (In 2000, he was Atlanta’s offensive line coach.)

As an assistant coach for the Steelers, Daniel helped develop former first-round draft choice and two-time Pro Bowler Heath Miller, who caught 592 passes and scored 45 touchdowns for Pittsburgh between 2005-15.

He also worked with the likes of Matt Spaeth and Jesse James, the latter of whom signed a lucrative four-year contract with the Detroit Lions in 2019.

More recently he tutored free agent acquisition Eric Ebron and trade acquisition Vance McDonald. Ebron, a former first-round pick of the Detroit Lions who signed with the Steelers this past spring. In 2020, Ebron had one of the more successful years of his career, catching 56 passes for 558 yards and five touchdowns.

How Did Daniel Get His Start in the NFL?

The Wetumpka, Ala. native was a four-year letter winner at Alabama State and coached collegiately at Auburn University between 1981 and 1992, where he was the school’s offensive line coach under the late Pat Dye. The Tigers posted a 99-39-4 record and won six bowl games during the years that Daniel was on Dye’s coaching staff.

He was also a part of the NFL’s Fellowship program in two different years during that time period, which helped him earn his first NFL coaching job. As part of that program, he spent time with the New Orleans Saints in 1988 and the Denver Broncos in 1992.

There are now just four offensive coaches remaining on Mike Tomlin’s staff, all of whom have been with the team for two years or fewer. That includes quarterbacks coach Matt Canada, who is reported to be a candidate to become the offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins.

Earlier on Thursday the Steelers announced that the organization would not be renewing the contracts of offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett and defensive backs coach Tom Bradley.

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