Next step, head coach

Jim Haslett: The Steelers' defensive coordinator has parlayed creative schemes and a strong personality into status as a hot prospect in the NFL coaching derby.

January 06, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

He has come a long way since the days of toiling in the World League, and even then, Jim Haslett made an impression on people like Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Sinclair.

Sinclair, who led the NFL in sacks in 1998, played under Haslett with the Sacramento Surge. In 1992, with Haslett as its defensive coordinator, Sacramento won the WLAF championship.

Haslett and Sinclair could be reunited soon, unless a team like the Ravens has something to say about it.

Haslett, the defensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers, spent yesterday interviewing for the vacant head coaching job with the Seahawks. He is expected to be in Baltimore on Friday to interview for Ted Marchibroda's old position.

Haslett, who at 43 is the fourth-youngest defensive coordinator in the league, has run the Pittsburgh defense for the past two seasons.

The Steelers' failure to make the playoffs for the first time under Bill Cowher had much more to do with their ineffective offense. Under Haslett, Pittsburgh produced the league's 12th-ranked defense. The Steelers also were the best team in the league at limiting opponents inside the 20.

"Jim is a great, defensive-minded coach and a young guy you love to play for," Sinclair said. "He's so creative, especially when it comes to taking away the strength from an offense.

"Jim is passionate, but he also has what they call a tiger streak. He can be nice, but if you mess up, he's a guy who will get in your face."

Before coming to Pittsburgh in 1997, Haslett spent two seasons (1995-1996) with the New Orleans Saints as defensive coordinator.

Haslett grew up in Pittsburgh, where he played at Avalon High School and used to sneak into nearby Three Rivers Stadium to watch the Steelers play.

A three-time All-American as a defensive end at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Haslett was drafted in the second round as a linebacker by Buffalo in 1979. That year, he earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, then was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1980 and 1981. Haslett concluded his playing career with the New York Jets in 1987.

Haslett went on to coach at the University of Buffalo for three seasons, before joining the Surge. After coaching in Sacramento, Haslett coached linebackers for two years (1993-1994) with the Los Angeles Raiders.

"[Haslett] has been around the league for a long time, so he knows what he's talking about. He knows what players are going through," said Pittsburgh cornerback Chad Scott. "He's a real nice guy. He tries to make it a fun atmosphere for the players. He doesn't get as upset as Cowher, but he's a stickler for the little details. He's an excellent coordinator. I definitely think he has the ability [to be a head coach]."

When asked if he considered Haslett head coaching material, Sinclair said, "That remains to be seen if he's an NFL head coach. I had a chance for him to coach me when he was raw, and I enjoyed it."

Chicago and Cleveland also have received permission to speak with Haslett, who has interviewed in Philadelphia.

Pub Date: 1/06/99

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