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Steelers coach Mike Tomlin: Hiring Black head coaches in NFL ‘is a critical issue for us’

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A week after addressing minority hiring issues in the NFL on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin discussed the league’s lack of Black coaches in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Tomlin expressed frustration at the lack of progress being made on the Black head coach hiring front. 

“I normally don’t talk publicly during the offseason, but this is a critical issue for us,” Tomlin said in the interview. “As important as this is for us in the NFL, it’s also important for us as a society. It deserves all the attention it gets.”

Tomlin is one of only three Black head coaches in the NFL, along with Houston’s David Culley and Miami’s Brian Flores.

“I don’t have an answer for you as to how to make it better,” said Tomlin. “The optimist in me says things will get better, but there’s been no evidence in the recent cycles to back that up. Without evidence, all we have is hope. We just haven’t been able to move the needle.”

Tomlin specifically mentioned Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy who has yet to fill a head coaching vacancy.

“Bieniemy is a real head-scratcher for me,” said Tomlin. “Every offensive coordinator Andy Reid has had in the last 20 years got a head job. One of those guys, Brad Childress, hired me in Minnesota in 2006. Now, Andy has the best offense he’s ever had and (Bieniemy) can’t get a job?”

Bieniemy interviewed for all seven league openings last month.

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Buccaneer’s offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich is another Black assistant with a résumé suited for a head coaching job, but he was also passed over. Although Tomlin has not had a Black coordinator with the Steelers, he interviewed Black coaches Hue Jackson and Pep Hamilton for his offensive coordinator’s position last month.

Tomlin ultimately promoted his quarterback coach Matt Canada.

“I always do what is best for our organization,” said Tomlin. “I believe in hiring from within in most cases. …I’m highly sensitive to it, but I don’t regret (not having a Black coordinator). I’ve had some good (Black) coaches leave for other jobs.” 

Contact Analis Bailey at [email protected] or on Twitter @analisbailey.

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