Steelers lose defensive backs coach to Arizona
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin will have at least one opening to fill in the coming weeks.
The Steelers lost their defensive backs coach Wednesday when Ray Horton became the Arizona Cardinals’ defensive coordinator.
Horton, the latest former Steelers coach or player to migrate west, is reunited with Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. The two worked together from 2004-06 under Bill Cowher, with Whisenhunt serving as offensive coordinator and Horton as an assistant defensive backs coach.
After succeeding Cowher, Tomlin promoted Horton in 2007. Horton’s big break comes less than a week after coaching in Super Bowl XLV.
The Cardinals offered Horton the defensive coordinator job on the same day he interviewed.
“Ray was one of the guys from the very start that I was interested in talking to,” Whisenhunt said yesterday. “To get him in here and talk about situations, talk about personnel, talk about a plan for our defense, those are things that are all critical to making your decision. Things progressed rapidly.”
The Cardinals were interested in talking with Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler about being their defensive coordinator, but the Steelers denied Arizona’s request to interview him. Butler is the likely successor to defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.
Arizona instead turned to another coach who has worked extensively with LeBeau, master of the zone-blitz concept. Horton wasted little time jumping at the opportunity.
“He created the defense that is really around the league right now,” Horton said at his introductory news conference. “We’re going to try to implement some of those, with some ideas of myself. The first call (of next season) is going to be a blitz. No question about it.”
Horton has won a Super Bowl ring as a player and coach.
He played on the Dallas Cowboys’ 1992 championship team. After a 10-year playing career, he went into coaching.
He worked in Washington, Cincinnati and Detroit before landing in Pittsburgh. Horton is credited with aiding in the development of strong safety Troy Polamalu, a six-time Pro Bowler and the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
“He’s had so much to do with the success that we’ve had as a secondary and my own,” Polamalu said recently.
Horton’s biggest concern is the looming lockout, as the collective bargaining agreement expires early next month. All NFL business except for the draft will be suspended if there is a lockout.
The uncertain labor situation left Horton wondering how many offseason practices he will have to implement the 3-4 defense.
“How do you get (information) to the players in x-amount of days and how many days is x?” Horton said. “I don’t know. No one does.”
Note: Steelers receiver Emmanuel Sanders had surgery on his broken foot Wednesday. Sanders, who got hurt in the second quarter of Super Bowl XLV, is expected to make a full recovery.
Ray Horton on Wednesday became the latest player or coach with Steelers ties to join the Cardinals organization. Here are the others Horton, the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator, will be reuniting with in Arizona:
Ken Whisenhunt, head coach; Russ Grimm, assistant head coach/running game coordinator; Mike Miller, passing game coordinator; Matt Raich, linebackers coach; Kevin Spencer, special teams coach
Alan Faneca, G; Clark Haggans, OLB; Joey Porter, OLB