Mike Tomlin said he wanted assistant coaches who were teachers and shared the same football values he possessed. Apparently, he also wanted coaches with whom he had previously worked.
After spending the past four days in Minnesota, getting his family and house in order, Tomlin returned to the Steelers' offices on the South Side yesterday and officially put his coaching staff in order, announcing the hiring of six new assistants.
Heading the list is former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson, whose hiring as quarterbacks coach was reported last week. He will replace Mark Whipple, who was not retained, and has been entrusted with working with the team's franchise player, Ben Roethlisberger.
Anderson, 57, never worked with Tomlin, but he was the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals when Tomlin was working as an assistant coach at the University of Cincinnati.
2007 Steelers coaching staff
Sp. teams assist.
New coaches in gray
*Ray Horton was promoted from assistant defensive backs coach.
But four of the new assistant coaches who signed contracts yesterday worked with Tomlin either in college or in the NFL.
Offensive line coach Larry Zierlein, who was the offensive line coach at the University of Cincinnati when Tomlin was there. Zierlein, 62, was also the offensive line coach with the Cleveland Browns when Bruce Arians was the Browns' offensive coordinator.
Wide receivers coach Randy Fichtner, who coached with Tomlin at Arkansas State and the University of Memphis. Fichtner, 43, a native of West Mifflin, was offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Memphis the past six seasons.
Assistant special teams coach Amos Jones, who coached the running backs and special teams during Tomlin's tenure at Cincinnati. He coached special teams and outside linebackers the past three seasons at Mississippi State.
Running backs coach Kirby Wilson, who was the running backs coach at Tampa Bay (2002-2003) when Tomlin was the Buccaneers' secondary coach. Wilson was the running backs coach the past two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals.
"It's not that we all think the same," Tomlin said. "But [I want] guys who have the base core football values that I have. As coaches, we need to be teachers. Success is built on fundamentals, muscle memory and execution."
The only coach who doesn't appear to have some working relationship with Tomlin is special teams coach Bob Ligashesky, a McKees Rocks native who played at Sto-Rox High School and IUP. Ligashesky, 44, was the special teams coach with the St. Louis Rams in 2005-06 and also spent four seasons at Pitt (2000-03) as tight ends/special teams coordinator.
Jones, 47, also spent one season at Pitt, serving as the Panthers' kicking game coordinator in 1992.
Tomlin interviewed all the assistants last week when he was in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl practice sessions and indicated they would be hired. The hirings were not announced until yesterday, when Tomlin returned to Pittsburgh.
The addition of Anderson, the Bengals' all-time leading passer and a four-time NFL passing champion, is the most intriguing hire.
After working the past four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he was brought in to work more closely with Roethlisberger, who threw an NFL-high 23 interceptions in 2006, ranked 11th in the AFC with a 75.4 passer rating and appeared to struggle with zone coverages.
"We have to be methodical at assembling a staff because that's important," Tomlin said. "It's the people."
In addition to retaining six assistants from former coach Bill Cowher's staff, Tomlin said assistant secondary coach Ray Horton has been promoted to secondary coach, replacing Darren Perry. Tomlin will also retain conditioning coordinator Chet Fuhrman, offensive assistant Matt Raich and defensive assistant Lou Spanos.
With the retirement of running backs coach Dick Hoak, Fuhrman is the only remaining member of Cowher's original staff from 1992.
Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was the team's secondary coach in 1992, but he left after the 1998 season to join the Bengals and did not return until 2004.
Gerry Dulac can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1466.