2 Steelers Legends Named XFL Head Coaches

Hines Ward

Kevin C. Cox/AAF/Getty Images Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward on February 16, 2019.

On Wednesday morning XFL co-owners Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia appeared on ESPN’s Get Up to talk about the launch of the new league, which will begin play in February 2023. As part of that appearance, the league announced the names of eight head coaches, a list that includes a pair of Pittsburgh Steelers legends, namely Pro Football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson and perennial Hall of Fame semifinalist Hines Ward. Also among the eight head coaches is former Steelers defensive coordinator Jim Haslett (1997-99), who went on to serve as head coach of the New Orleans Saints after leaving Pittsburgh.

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Rod Woodson and Hines Ward Have Relatively Limited Coaching Backgrounds

Of course, both Rod Woodson, 57, and Hines Ward, 46, had stellar NFL playing careers, with Woodson authoring a 17-year career with four different teams and Ward having spent all 14 of his NFL seasons with the Steelers.

But neither has had an especially distinguished coaching career.

Woodson got his start doing two separate coaching internship through the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship program, and also served as a coaching intern with the Steelers in 2013. He went on to work as assistant defensive backs coach for the Raiders in 2015-16 and then cornerbacks coach in 2017, but hasn’t coached in the league since.

In June 2020, Woodson stirred up controversy when he told TMZ Sports that he believed he was discriminated against in terms of coaching opportunities, not necessarily because of race but because of being a Pro Football Hall of Famer, arguing that NFL head coaches don’t want another “alpha” on staff.

As for Ward, his coaching journey got underway in the summer of 2017, when he served as an intern with the Steelers under then-wide receivers coach Richard Mann. He went on to work as an offensive assistant for the New York Jets for two seasons (2019-20) and in early 2021 he was a candidate to become wide receivers coach of the Detroit Lions, a job that went to former Steelers teammate Antwaan Randle El.

In April 2021 Ward was hired as an “off-field assistant” at Florida Atlantic University, 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, a job that ultimately went to Lovie Smith.

Jim Haslett Served as Defensive Coordinator Under Bill Cowher

As for Jim Haslett, he has been coaching football since 1998, with the overwhelming majority of his experience coming in the NFL. Most recently, he served as inside linebackers coach for the Tennessee Titans (2020-21). His career peaked in the 2000s when he was head coach of the Saints between 2000-05; he also served as interim head coach of the St. Louis Rams in 2008.

Woodson, Ward and Haslett aren’t the only key XFL figures with a Steelers background. Former Steelers pro scouting coordinator Doug Whaley serves as the senior vice president of player personnel for the league. In March Whaley interviewed for the Steelers’ soon-to-be-open general manager position, making him one of 16 candidates for the job.

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