SAN FRANCISCO -- Willy Robinson, the Pittsburgh Steelers'
defensive backs coach for the past four seasons, was named the San
Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator on Thursday.
Robinson will be reunited with 49ers coach Dennis Erickson, his
boss for six seasons prior to joining the Steelers. He replaces Jim
Mora, who left San Francisco to become the Atlanta Falcons' head
coach last week.
Robinson, a longtime Fresno State assistant, coached under
Erickson with the University of Miami, the Seattle Seahawks and
Oregon State. Robinson also played at Fresno State while Erickson
was an assistant there in 1977.
The 49ers wanted to hire Robinson last year when Erickson took
over, but he stayed with Pittsburgh for another season. Most of his
late wife's family is from Northern California.
"I discussed it with my daughters, and I just couldn't pass on
it again," Robinson said. "This is the best opportunity, and I've
wanted to get back with coach Erickson. ... We're very dear friends
with each other, and we're looking forward to working with each
Robinson was one of three known candidates to succeed Tim Lewis
as the Steelers' defensive coordinator. Lewis was fired by coach
Bill Cowher last week.
Erickson has retooled his coaching staff in the days since Mora
and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp left for the Falcons. He
promoted assistants Gregg Smith and Ted Tollner to more prominent
positions, and he has hired three new assistants with previous
experience working for him.
"He's an outstanding coach, but even more than that, he's a
good friend," Erickson said. "Any time in coaching when you have
your own staff together, you want people around you that you know
and you can trust. That's how it is around here."
The 49ers still must hire a secondary coach to replace Brett
Maxie, who left with Mora and Knapp.