Alabama Football: Kevin Steele’s Proximity to Greatness

David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports /

One of the most important names of the 2023 offseason for Alabama football is new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. Steele has enjoyed a long coaching career spanning over 40 years, and has consistently been around successful programs.

Over the last 15 seasons, he has embarked on a unique journey that has allowed him to work with some of the most dominant programs in modern college football. Since 2007, Steele has served as the defensive coordinator at Alabama, the defensive coordinator for Clemson, the linebackers coach for Alabama, the DC for LSU, and the DC at Auburn.

He spent the last two seasons at Tennessee and Miami before returning to Bama for the 2023 season.

From 2007 to 2020, the four schools that employed Steele won an incredible 11 out of 14 national championships. Remarkably, Steele was not a part of any of those championship-winning teams. Over and over again, he managed to narrowly avoid getting a national title, but he has always been in close proximity to that elusive ring.

It is not as though Kevin Steele is cursed. He did manage to win a national championship as the defensive coordinator for the Nebraska Cornhuskers in 1994.

Regardless of his lack of championships in the modern era, which Alabama Football fans should optimistically assume is mostly coincidental, Steele has always led strong defenses and been a part of good teams.

Steele led top-20 scoring defenses at Auburn in 2018 and 2019, a top-15 unit in total defense and scoring defense on the Plains in 2017, and a top-10 scoring defense in 2016.

Prior to that, he coached the linebackers on a top-10 scoring defense in Tuscaloosa in 2014, and was a staff member on a top-5 defense in 2013.

Steele coordinated top-20 defenses at Clemson in 2009 and 2010. He coached linebackers on a top-10 defense for Coach Nick Saban’s 2008 Alabama Football team that went 12-2. He also coached linebackers on two top-10 defenses at Florida State in 2003 and 2004.

Steele has contributed to at least 11 very good or elite defensive units over the past two decades. Back under Nick Saban as the defensive coordinator for Alabama Football in 2023, he may have access to the most talent he has ever had.

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It will be interesting to see if Steele can help parlay that talent into a championship.