Steelers Interview Former Browns Head Coach for Offensive Coordinator

Hue Jackson Mike Tomlin

Joe Sargent/Getty Images Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers shakes hands with head coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns before the game at Heinz Field on October 28, 2018.

According to Dianna Russini, NFL reporter for ESPN, the Pittsburgh Steelers have interviewed former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson for the team’s offensive coordinator position. It’s not clear how serious a candidate Jackson is for the role, as there have been indications that Steelers quarterbacks coach Matt Canada is slated to be promoted to the position. But considering how Jackson fared in Cleveland, even the thought of bringing him to Pittsburgh will no doubt make fans nervous.

Hue Jackson’s Rise and Fall

It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when Hue Jackson was well-respected for his work as an offensive coordinator and play caller.

In fact, he has 18-plus years of coaching experience in the NFL with six different organizations, including Washington, Atlanta, Baltimore and Cincinnati. But he has never spent more than three seasons in any one role, having coached running backs, wide receivers, quarterbacks and defensive backs, in addition to the five seasons he has toiled as an offensive coordinator.

But Jackson was in way over his head as an NFL head coach—among the very worst head coaches in NFL history. He did manage to lead the Oakland Raiders to an 8-8 mark in 2011, but he went 1-31 in his first two seasons with the Cleveland Browns in 2016 and 2017 before he was finally, mercifully, let go after a 2-5-1 start in 2018.

Check out the following cringeworthy clip (from HBO’s Hard Knocks) of Jackson leading a meeting of Cleveland Browns coaches in 2018. The clip also features former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, as well as then-running backs coach Freddie Kitchens, who would immediately follow Jackson as Browns head coach before he gave way to current boss Kevin Stefanski.

It could be the case that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin invited Jackson for an interview to help pave the way for him to get a lower-level (position coach) job. Shortly after Jackson was fired by the Browns, he was hired as a special assistant to then-Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. But he hasn’t held an NFL coaching position for two years.

In the meantime, the interview would also seem to satisfy the Rooney Rule, which now requires that at least one minority candidate be interviewed for open coordinator positions.

The State of Pittsburgh’s Offensive Coaching Staff

As for the rest of Pittsburgh’s coaching staff, reports have also indicated that Tomlin wants to hire an offensive line coach before making a decision on a new offensive coordinator, to ensure that there’s a good match in terms of philosophy. Tomlin & Co. have interviewed at least one offensive line coach in recent days, that being Hank Fraley, who served in that capacity for the Detroit Lions in 2020. Fraley also has Pittsburgh roots, having played his college football at Robert Morris University.

In addition, Tomlin needs to hire a new tight ends coach to replace the recently-retired James Daniel. It’s also possible that Tomlin will soon need a new wide receivers coach, as Ike Hilliard is interviewing with the Detroit Lions for their open offensive coordinator position.

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