The Dominion Post  

Steelers hire former WVU coach Stewart’s son

Created on:   Thu, Feb 8, 2018   11:07 PM

Last modified:   Thu, Feb 8, 2018   11:07 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — After a playing career at William & Mary, Mike Tomlin wanted to break into the football coaching ranks, so he visited Virginia Military Institute one weekend during spring camp in 1995.

Then-VMI head coach Bill Stewart wanted Tomlin to come check things out and see if it was something he’d be interested in. Little did Tomlin know, coach Stewart would put him to work that weekend — and the rest if history.

Stewart hired Tomlin to be his wide receivers coach during the ’95 season, and that was the beginning of a coaching career that skyrocketed Tomlin through the college ranks and into the NFL. Thirteen years after Stewart gave Tomlin a chance, Tomlin won a Super Bowl as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now, Tomlin is returning the favor.

On Feb. 6, the Steelers announced that Blaine Stewart, Bill’s son, will be on his staff as a coaching assistant — Blaine’s breakthrough into the coaching rankings.

The elder Stewart had a two-year run in the Canadian Football League before coming back to his home state of West Virginia to be an assistant behind Don Nehlen and eventually Rich Rodriguez at WVU.

Following Rodriguez’s departure to Michigan, Stewart was named interim head coach and helped lead the Mountaineers to a Fiesta Bowl win, over Oklahoma, in January 2008.

As he raised the Fiesta Bowl trophy that night, a 13-year-old Blaine was right there by his side.

Bill coached the Mountaineers for three seasons, from 2008-’10. At the same time, Blaine began to make a name for himself at Morgantown High.

He was a three-sport athlete, competing in football, baseball and track with the Mohigans, but there was no doubt football was his biggest passion.

Blaine was beginning to get noticed by colleges to play at the next level, but tragedy struck toward the end of his junior year. Bill, 59, died in May 2012, of a heart attack.

Tomlin was one of the first to reach out to Blaine after his father’s passing, and attended Bill’s funeral. Tomlin also came to watch Blaine’s first football game of his senior year, against Taylor Allderdice (coincidentally, out of Pittsburgh).

Blaine finished with five catches for 52 yards and a touchdown that night.

The 12-year Steelers head coach has kept in close contact with the Stewart family since Bill’s death. He recalls changing Blaine’s diapers when he was still coaching at VMI.

Tomlin later invited Stewart to Steelers training camp, where he got a chance to work with the team for four days as a ball boy.

Stewart finished his senior year with the Mohigans with 41 catches, 615 yards and six touchdown catches, and signed to play at James Madison.

“Blaine Stewart is a once in a lifetime kid to coach and young man to know,” MHS athletic director and former head football coach John Bowers said. “He has blessed me more than any kid I have had the great pleasure to coach.”

After spending three years at JMU, primarily as the starting holder on special teams, Stewart transferred to the University of Charleston, where he tallied 15 catches for 133 yards in two seasons, from 2016-’17.

On Tuesday, the Steelers officially announced Stewart’s hire. It is unclear what his specific duties will be with the team.

The Steelers declined an interview request for Stewart, but said the idea could be revisited this spring, once Stewart is more acclimated with the position.