Ex-Steelers QB Lands Coordinator Job; Ron Zook Returns to Coaching

Bruce Gradkowski

Joe Robbins/Getty Images Bruce Gradkowski of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks to pass against the Green Bay Packers at Heinz Field on August 23, 2015.

On Wednesday June 8, the XFL announced the names of 12 of the 14 offensive and defensive coordinators who will work for the league’s eight teams. Two of the coordinators are former employees of the Pittsburgh Steelers, namely former quarterback Bruce Gradkowski and former special teams coordinator Ron Zook. The news comes courtesy of a release on the XFL’s website, which notes how some of the newly-named coordinators were part of the league in 2020, before it suspended operations due to COVID-19.

Gradkowski, 39, is a Pittsburgh native who was a sixth-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006 and went on to play quarterback for five different teams, with his last stop coming with the Steelers (2013-16). He will serve as offensive coordinator under head coach Anthony Becht, a former NFL tight end who had an 11-year playing career with five different clubs after he was a first-round pick of the New York Jets in 2000.

Former Steelers assistant Ron Zook, 68, will serve as defensive coordinator under Jim Haslett, who was Bill Cowher’s defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh from 1997-99, before he moved on to become head coach of the New Orleans Saints. Zook has 11 years of experience as an NFL assistant, beginning with a three-year stint as special teams coordinator under Cowher (1996-98). His last coaching job was in 2019, when he served as special teams/secondary coach for the Salt Lake Stallions of the AAF.

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Steelers Hall of Famer Rod Woodson is 1 of 8 XFL Head Coaches

The XFL — which will begin play in February 2023 — had previously announced the names of the head coaches who will lead each of the league’s eight teams. Including the aforementioned Haslett, three of the head coaches have strong Steelers roots, with the others being Pro Football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson and legendary Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward.

Rod Woodson, 57, had a sparkling 17-year playing career with four different teams and has also spent several seasons working as an NFL assistant. After completing a coaching internship with the Steelers in 2013, he went on to serve as assistant defensive backs coach for the Raiders in 2015-16 before being promoted to cornerbacks coach in 2017. He hasn’t coached in the NFL since.

Steelers Legend Hines Ward Will Also Coach an XFL Team

As for Ward, 46, he spent all 14 of his NFL seasons with the Steelers and has since worked as an offensive assistant for the New York Jets (2019-20). In early 2021 he was a candidate to become wide receivers coach of the Detroit Lions, but that job that went to former Steelers teammate Antwaan Randle El.

In April 2021, Ward was hired as an off-field assistant at Florida Atlantic, and last November he was promoted to be the Owls’ wide receivers coach. Most recently, he interviewed for the head coaching job with the Houston Texans, but that job went to Lovie Smith.

Ward will be assisted by Jaime Elizondo (offensive coordinator) and Jim Herrmann (defensive coordinator). The league has yet to announce the names of the coordinators who will work under Rod Woodson. It has also yet to announce team names.

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