Mike Archer, Steelers Linebacker Coach, 1996-2002
First, can you tell readers how you got involved in coaching and what you like most about the job?
I got involved in coaching right out of college in Miami. I had an opportunity to be a Georgia on the staff and it really was exciting. The best part of coaching is being able to take a group of people and teach and coach them from one point to another point where they have success.
What coaches and coaching lessons do you find yourself emulating most – and why?
My high school coach Jim Williams was the first person who I looked up to and I was fortunate to grow up in State College and be influenced by Joe Paterno, as well as working for Howard Scnellenberger, Bill Arnsparger, and Lou Saban.
You were a college coach for nearly twenty years until coach until Bill Cowher hired you in ’96. How did Coach Cowher identify and decide on you as the Steelers’ linebacker coach and what made you decide to take an NFL job?
I had visited the Steeler’s training camp in Latrobe in 1995 to visit with John Mitchell, who had been on my staff at LSU, and to visit with Coach LeBeau, and met Coach Cowher then. I had been offered a job in 1993 to join the Bengals but the timing was not right, so when this came along I felt like I needed to take it.
How different was it for you to coach professional versus college players – what were the pros and cons of coaching in the NFL?
It is very different coaching Pro players in the sense that they are the best in the world, and college players need more teaching and development. Both are challenging and rewarding. The biggest adjustment in the NFL was the players call you by your first name as opposed to “Coach”
How different was it coaching 3-4 linebackers? How do you approach training and coaching guys that are part linebacker, part cover guy and part lineman?
It was not that different coaching 3-4 linebackers because I have coached that defense most of my life. The hard part in the NFL is finding those kind of players, who can play the run yet also drop into coverage. It is very challenging to identify those players and project them to play at the NFL level.
When you project a defensive lineman to become a linebacker you first look at athletic and football ability and the ability to run and drop into coverage. We tried to interview as many of the projected linebackers as possible to gain an understanding of football schemes and how they best were able to learn and their football knowledge and understanding.
Carlos Emmons and Mike Vrabel were two guys who both came in as defensive ends and were able to become great NFL linebackers. Both had a great desire to work to be great and were outstanding pros.
Success to me comes from taking a game plan each week and coaching it, seeing your players have success as they execute it to win an NFL game
How involved was Coach Cowher in the actual development of players – especially the linebacking guys that you worked with? What did he contribute there?
Coach Cowher was very involved in all aspects of the defense from the scheme that we ran as well as the coaching and development of all of our players. Being a former linebacker he had a say on all that we did.
What are your best memories of coaching in Pittsburgh?
My best memories of coaching with the Steelers were the great players and coaches that I had a chance to work with and the Great Steeler fans who always came to see their team play. A dream come true for a kid from State College!!