Ex-Steelers Coach Close to Returning to NFL With Rival: Report

Mike Tomlin

Getty The Pittsburgh Steelers and head coach Mike Tomlin could see one of their former coaches join a rival this offseason.

Adrian Klemm left the Pittsburgh Steelers before the end of his first season as offensive line coach for a position at Oregon. But now about 13 months later, he’s closing in on a return to the NFL.

While making a guest appearance on NBC Sports Boston’s “Sports Sunday” on January 22, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer reported Klemm, along with Bill O’Brien, could be joining the New England Patriots coaching staff.

“It feels at least like Bill O’Brien is going to be the offensive coordinator, and the other four guys could wind up on staff in some capacity,” Breer said on January 22. “Adrian Klemm potentially as a run game coordinator/offensive line coach.

“Now, he’s not gonna come cheap. He’s making almost $1 million at Oregon right now.”

ESPN’s Mike Reiss, along with multiple other sources, reported on January 24 that the Patriots agreed to a contract with O’Brien to be New England’s next offensive coordinator.

With that becoming a reality, Breer’s prediction of Klemm also joining the Patriots appears to be one step closer.


Klemm Abruptly Departed from the Steelers

Klemm won three Super Bowls as a depth offensive lineman while playing for Bill Belichick and the Patriots from 2000-04. Now with 12 seasons of coaching experience as well, he seems to be a natural fit to be New England’s offensive line coach or running game coordinator.

But it was the Steelers who gave Klemm his first opportunity at coaching in the NFL. Klemm, though, left the organization for a similar college role after Week 16 of the 2021 season.

Prior to joining the Steelers, he started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at SMU. He spent four seasons with the Mustangs, eventually rising to offensive line coach.

Klemm made a lateral move into the same role at UCLA in 2012. He was also the running game coordinator. In 2014, he assumed associate head coaching duties as well.

In 2019, Klemm joined the Steelers coaching staff as an assistant offensive line coach. The Steelers promoted him to offensive line coach in 2021, where he remained for less than a season before becoming associate head coach, run game coordinator and offensive line coach at Oregon.

The Steelers offensive line underwent some major changes after 2020 when he became the full-time offensive line coach. But over Klemm’s three seasons on the Pittsburgh staff, the Steelers never finished better than 29th in rushing or 29th in yards per carry.


Patriots Making Changes to Offensive Coaching Staff

It’s been almost two decades since Klemm left the Patriots to play for the Green Bay Packers in 2005. He started nine games for the Packers that season, which was his last as a player.

Klemm’s return figures to be one of several moves New England makes to its coaching staff this offseason. The Patriots have already hired O’Brien as offensive coordinator, and that’s without firing Matt Patricia, who served in the offensive coordinator role during 2022.

Patricia called offensive plays, but his official title this past season was senior football advisor/offensive line coach. Presumably, Patricia won’t call plays anymore with the arrival of O’Brien. It will be interesting to see if the arrival of Klemm, assuming it happens, pushes Patricia out entirely.

The status of Joe Judge, who was also another former NFL head coach in a role (quarterbacks coach) unfamiliar to him last season, on the Patriots staff appears to be in flux as well. ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio speculated that O’Brien could want to hire his own quarterbacks coach, possibly pushing out both Patricia and Judge.

A lot of Pittsburgh sports fans were hoping to see changes to the Steelers staff this offseason. That may still happen, but for now, they will have to be satisfied with watching the Patriots emerge themselves into a full-blown game of musical coaching chairs.

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