4-Time All-Pro Sounds Off on Jon Gruden-Steelers Offensive Coordinator Rumors

Mike Tomlin coaches the Steelers during a game.

Getty Pro Football Hall of Fame member Warren Sapp sounded off on rumors that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin could hire Jon Gruden as his offensive coordinator.

Fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers expect the team to be in the market for a new offensive coordinator this upcoming offseason. But despite what one insider may say, Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp argued Jon Gruden won’t be a candidate.

“Not even close,” Sapp said when asked during an appearance on Fearless with Jason Whitlock about the possibility of Gruden becoming the Steelers offensive coordinator. “Come on, I can’t even say what Jon said.

“Mike T. said, ‘I don’t know who writes this stuff.’ I said, ‘Yeah, all right.'”

Tomlin began his NFL coaching career as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive backs coach in 2001 under Tony Dungy. But after the Buccaneers fired Dungy and traded for Gruden prior to the 2002 season, Tomlin remained on the team’s new staff in the same position.

Tomlin coached under Gruden for four seasons.

Sapp’s tenure in Tampa Bay started in 1995. He played for both Tomlin and Gruden during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.

The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in 2002.

Jon Gruden-Steelers Offensive Coordinator Rumors Emerge During Bye Week

Rumors that Gruden could be a candidate for Steelers offensive coordinator first surfaced on October 11.

During an online chat, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac mentioned Gruden for Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator role if it becomes open this offseason.

“Gerry who do you expect realistically the Steelers to target in the offseason for their inevitable vacant OC job?” Guest asked.

“Way too early to speculate,” Dulac answered. “But a good one would be a Tomlin friend — Jon Gruden.”

In addition to winning the Super Bowl during the 2002 season, Gruden led the Buccaneers to two other playoff appearances in seven seasons. He also took the then Oakland Raiders to the playoffs twice in 2000 and 2001.

After getting fired in Tampa Bay, Gruden joined the Monday Night Football booth, where his offensive guru reputation grew. He also served on ESPN’s NFL draft coverage. Awful Announcing’s Matt Yoder reported in September 2015 that Gruden was the highest-paid ESPN personality at that time.

During his ESPN tenure, Gruden was often connected to college and NFL head coaching openings. He finally returned to the NFL as Raiders head coach in 2018.

But during his fourth season, an NFL investigation into the Washington Football Team workplace revealed racist, misogynistic and homophobic emails Gruden had sent to then Washington general manager Bruce Allen.

Gruden resigned as Raiders head coach on October 11, 2021. The Buccaneers removed him from the team’s Ring of Honor as a result of the email scandal.

ESPN’s Katherine Terrell reported on May 30 that Gruden visited offseason workouts with the New Orleans Saints, who signed former Raiders quarterback Derek Carr in March. But Gruden has not held an official coaching role since resigning from the Raiders.

In 15 NFL seasons as a head coach, Gruden posted a 117-112 record. Before becoming Raiders head coach in 1998, he served as Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator from 1995-97.

Bryon Leftwich Also Connected to Steelers OC Role

Dulac briefly discussed one other specific candidate for the potential Steelers offensive coordinator opening in his most recent online chat — former Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich.

“Byron might be a good option,” Dulac wrote. “He was really good when Brady was the QB.”

Rumors connected Leftwich to the Steelers offensive coordinator role this past offseason. But the Steelers elected to keep Matt Canada for a third season.

Leftwich was offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers when they won the Super Bowl during the 2020 season. But on January 19, Tampa Bay fired Leftwich after four seasons.

Leftwich served as Pittsburgh’s backup quarterback in 2008 when the Steelers won their last Super Bowl. He was also a backup signal caller for the Steelers from 2010-12.

Canada’s contract expires after the 2023 season and because the Steelers offense has performed so poorly, speculation has already begun that Canada will not be back in 2024.

The Steelers are 27th in total offense and 29th in points scored this season. They have scored points on just 25% of their offensive possessions, which is ranked 30th in the league.

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