Steelers WR coach Darryl Drake has passion for blocking
The Steelers' new wide receivers coach worked with Hines Ward in college and Larry Fitzgerald in the pros, and it's no coincidence they are as renowned for their blocking as their pass catching.
Darryl Drake is a proponent of having his receivers get physical, which made him a prime candidate to replace Richard Mann, who retired last week.
Drake, 61, was hired by the Steelers on Friday after interviewing with the team Jan. 18. He signed a two-year contract.
Drake has 14 years of NFL experience. He was with the Chicago Bears from 2004-12 and coached the Arizona Cardinals receivers for the past five years.
At his two previous NFL stops, Drake developed a reputation as a coach who emphasizes his wide receivers be able to deliver a hit as well as catch a pass. The Steelers have one of the best young blocking receivers in JuJu Smith-Schuster, who just completed his rookie season.
"We know what the passing game means to the NFL today, but you still have to be able to run the football and big plays come in that when your receivers block," Drake told SB Nation last year. "It's a matter of attitude. It's all 'want to.' "
Drake is so highly regarded that SI.com named him as the receivers coach for a "dream coaching staff" the web site compiled in June 2016.
In Arizona, Bruce Arians' retirement as head coach freed Drake to pursue other opportunities, and the Oakland Raiders reportedly interviewed him to be on Jon Gruden's staff.
Drake coached Ward at Georgia and spent five seasons coaching Fitzgerald in Arizona.
Ward was thought to be under consideration for the job because he served as a coaching intern in training camp and assisted Mann with the receivers occasionally during the regular season.
Prior to working in the NFL, Drake spent 21 years as a college assistant at four schools, including Georgia. Drake also was an offensive coordinator at Baylor and associate head coach at Texas for one season each.
Drake played at Western Kentucky and spent time in training camp with the Washington Redskins in 1979 and Cincinnati Bengals in 1983. He also played one season (1981) with the Ottawa Roughriders of the Canadian Football League.
Mann, 70, is retiring after spending five seasons with the Steelers and 33 in the NFL. He will finish his duties after the Pro Bowl, where Mike Tomlin and his staff are coaching the AFC team in Sunday's game.
Joe Rutter is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.