Steelers connections to the teams that are playing on Championship Sunday
Updated: Jan 24, 2021
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
It's Championship Sunday in the NFL. The Buccaneers face the Packers at 3:05 p.m. at Lambeau Field in the NFC Championship Game and the Bills square off against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game at 6:40 p.m. at Arrowhead Stadium.
While the Steelers are at home along with 27 other teams, they do have some past players or coaches participating in today's games.
We'll start with the Buccaneers, who have the most Steeler connections. The notorious Antonio Brown will not play on Sunday, as he's been ruled out with a knee injury. But Tampa Bay also has Steve McLendon and Ross Cockrell on their roster. With former Steelers' offensive coordinator Bruce Arians as the Buccaneers' head coach, several coaches on his staff used to play or coach in Pittsburgh.
Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, offensive assistant Antwaan Randle El and outside linebackers coach Larry Foote all played for the Steelers while Arians was in Pittsburgh.
Here are the coaches on Arians' staff who have connections with the Steelers -- assistant head coach/run game coordinator Harold Goodwin, who was the offensive line coach and quality control coordinator with the Steelers from 2007-2011; offensive consultant Tom Moore, who was the Steelers' wide receivers coach from 1977-1982 and first offensive coordinator in franchise history from 1983-1989. Moore was the offensive coordinator for the Colts from 1998-2008 and Bruce Arians was the quarterbacks coach in Indianapolis from 1998-2000 -- the early years of Peyton Manning. Defensive/special teams assistant Cody Grimm doesn't have a direct connection to the Steelers, but his dad Russ Grimm was the Steelers' offensive line coach from 2001-2006 and worked with Arians for three years when he was the wide receivers coach in Pittsburgh before becoming offensive coordinator from 2007-2011.
The Chiefs have two former Steelers on their roster -- Le'Veon Bell and Stefen Wisniewski. Bell, like Brown, won't play today, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Bell has not been impressive in Kansas City, to say the least. He just doesn't look like the same Bell that played in Pittsburgh. He doesn't possess that playmaking ability anymore and looks a lot slower. Bell rushed for just six yards on two carries in the Chiefs' 22-17 win over the Browns in the divisional round game last Sunday. That tells you all you need to know.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire didn't even play in the game either due to an ankle injury. Darrel Williams, who signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2018, got snaps over Bell and rushed for 78 yards on 13 carries (6.0 average) and had four receptions for 16 yards against Cleveland.
Wisniewski didn't re-sign with the Chiefs after the 2019 season and signed with the Steelers last March. Wisniewski started at right guard in the season opener against the Giants, as David DeCastro was inactive due to a knee injury, but his time as a starter and ultimately a Steeler came to an end quickly.
Wisniewski suffered a pectoral injury in the game and was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 18. He was activated on Nov. 4 but got waived three days later. Wisnewski went unclaimed and was signed to the Chiefs' practice squad on Nov. 24. On Dec. 12, Wisniewski was promoted to the active roster and has been serving as a backup guard and center.
The only Steelers connection on the Bills is Tyler Matakevich, who's done pretty well in Buffalo and is a special teams demon, just as he was in Pittsburgh.
The Packers have no ties with former Steelers' players or coaches. However, passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy is from Munhall and went to Steel Valley.
Understandably, a lot of Steelers fans don't want to see the Buccaneers or Chiefs in the Super Bowl because of Brown and Bell. In addition, I'm sure many Steelers fans don't want to see Tom Brady in another Super Bowl. Brown is out for today's game and it's uncertain what his status would be if Tampa Bay were to advance to the Super Bowl. Bell is out as well and has been a non-factor in Kansas City, and is pretty much just riding the coattails of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' explosive offense. Regardless of the impact on their respective teams, Steelers fans would be at more ease if neither Brown and Bell's teams were playing on Super Bowl Sunday.