TUSCALOOSA — There’s another vacancy on Nick Saban’s coaching staff.
Alabama defensive line coach Karl Dunbar accepted the same position with the Pittsburgh Steelers — the team that drafted him in the eighth round of the 1990 NFL draft — returning the 50-year-old coach to pro football and requiring Saban to hire a fifth new coach in this whirlwind of an offseason.
“It’s awesome to be back,” Dunbar said in the Steelers’ news release. “This team drafted me out of college. Just to be back and the nostalgia of Pittsburgh, the mystic of Pittsburgh, the workman’s mentality. Hopefully, I can bring that to the team.
A former LSU lineman in the late 1980s, Dunbar spent two seasons as a strength and conditioning coach on Saban’s Tigers staff in 2000 and 2001 before reuniting with him at Alabama.
In his two-year Crimson Tide stay, Dunbar coached 2016 Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year Jonathan Allen — a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft — and defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne, a man many believe will be selected in the first round of the 2018 draft.
The Steelers job is the fifth NFL coaching stint for the 50-year-old Dunbar, spanning a combined nine years. He came to Alabama after coaching the Buffalo Bills defensive line in 2015. His longest stint as an assistant coach was with the Minnesota Vikings from 2006-11.
Dunbar’s departure officially leaves two open spots on an overhauled Alabama staff that lost offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley following the national championship game.
Already this offseason, the program announced the hiring of receivers coach Josh Gattis, secondary coach Karl Scott, defensive assistant Pete Golding and special teams coach Jeff Banks.
It’s widely believed and reported that Alabama will promote current co-offensive coordinator Mike Locksley to replace Daboll and hire former Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos as quarterbacks coach, though neither move has been made official by the university.
Enos recruited for the Crimson Tide in the two weeks leading up to National Signing Day while Alabama tried, futilely, to pursue a quarterback.
Whomever replaces Dunbar inherits an Alabama defensive line returning end Raekwon Davis — the team’s sack leader — along with rising senior Isaiah Buggs at the same position.
Neither of Alabama’s experienced defensive tackles, Payne and backup Joshua Frazier, return, though, leaving a void in the middle the new man must solve.