There will be changes to Shane Steichen’s coaching staff in Indianapolis this offseason after all.
The Colts did not renew the contracts of defensive line coach Nate Ollie and assistant defensive backs coach Mike Mitchell, a league source told IndyStar on Wednesday, marking the first major changes to the defensive staff since Gus Bradley took over as defensive coordinator in 2022.
Steichen had hinted at his final news conference any staff changes would be minimal.
“I believe in continuity, I’ll say that,” Steichen said.
Both Ollie and Mitchell had been part of Bradley’s staff for each of the past two seasons, and the decision to not renew their contracts is a change on the defensive side of the ball.
Indianapolis decided to bring back Bradley for a third season even though the Colts finished 28th in the NFL in scoring, and Colts general manager Chris Ballard indicated at his postseason news conference the decision to retain Bradley did not mean Indianapolis would stay exactly the same on defense.
I know that’s been a hot topic for everybody; look, it’s an area we have to improve,” Ballard said. “The points do need to come down. We’ll continue to have long discussions about where we’re going and how we’ll get that done.”
Ollie, the 32-year-old from Ball State, represents a significant departure.
The only primary position coach who had no history with Bradley before he was hired, Ollie was hired by Bradley to install the “attack front,” a penetrating style of defensive line play that requires defensive linemen to focus all of their energy on getting up the field.
Ollie’s attack front produced sacks.
The Colts finished 10th in the NFL with 44 sacks and eighth in sacks per pass attempt (8.19%), then followed it up by producing 51 sacks — the most of any Colts team in the franchise’s four decades in Indianapolis — finishing eighth in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt (8.98%).
We got after the passer pretty good,” Ballard said after the season. “I think it’s got to be a little better, but 51 sacks is pretty good.”
Ollie also presided over the development of Dayo Odeyingbo, who took a big step forward in his third season, the ongoing development of Kwity Paye and a career-best season from veteran Samson Ebukam, who led Indianapolis with a career-best 9.5 sacks.
Indianapolis also finished both of Ollie’s seasons ranked in the top 10 in yards allowed per carry against the run, although when nose tackle Grover Stewart was out of the lineup for six games this season, the Colts struggled to slow teams down on the ground.
Mitchell, 36, spent most of his time working with the safeties as an assistant to veteran defensive backs coach Ron Milus. Veteran safeties like Rodney McLeod and Julian Blackmon turned in impressive seasons for the Colts the past two years, but the team’s pair of young free safeties, Nick Cross and Rodney Thomas II, struggled with consistency.
Mitchell also appeared to disagree publicly with the NFL’s decision to suspend Steelers safety Damontae Kazee for his illegal hit on Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., writing on his X account he would tell wide receivers to dive for every catch.
“I do think we’ve got to get more consistency out of the free safety position,” Ballard said. “That’s not quite a knock, because they’re both young players.”
Bradley, Steichen and Ballard have already been talking about how to improve the defense.
Now, they must find new coaches in two different spots to help the defense take the next step.