Not long after Arthur Smith landed on the radar of the Steelers for their offensive coordinator vacancy, an agreement has been reached. The ex-Falcons head coach is expected to take over as Pittsburgh’s OC, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports.
Smith’s three-year run at the helm of the Falcons came to an end on Black Monday after he posted a third consecutive 7-10 record. An inability to maximize the team’s potential at the offensive skill positions played a key role in that decision, but Smith boosted his stock during his previous time as OC of the Titans.
The recently fired HC will now return to a coordinator posting featuring a run-based attack, with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac indicating this is expected to be a three-year deal.
During a press conference yesterday, Steelers owner Art Rooney II confirmed the team would likely have its next OC in place in the near future. He added that a clear profile was in place with respect to what Pittsburgh was targeting, given the plans for the offense. Smith was interviewed on Sunday, and that meeting has now produced an agreement.
As Pelissero notes, Smith was on the radar of other teams (although his Steelers summit was his only known interview). Indeed, it had been recently reported that the 41-year-old was likely to land a coordinator gig during the 2024 hiring cycle despite the underwhelming nature of his Atlanta tenure. The Falcons ranked no better than 15th in scoring under Smith, though the team’s struggles can be traced in large part to a lack of consistent high-end play at the quarterback position.
In Pittsburgh, Smith will enter a situation which is not entirely settled under center. 2022 first-rounder Kenny Pickett remains in place atop the depth chart for now, but an offseason competition for the starting spot should be expected. Mason Rudolph is a pending free agent, but he could find himself on a new Steelers contract, especially if a path exists for him to claim the full-time No. 1 role. Smith will be tasked with developing Pickett or overseeing a transition to a new passer.
Smith spent 10 years on the Titans’ staff, including a pair of seasons (2019-20) as the team’s offensive coordinator. During that time, a ground-heavy approach yielded a top-four showing in both total and scoring offense in 2020. Smith’s HC stock rose to the level that he landed the Falcons gig, but it has obviously taken a hit over the past three campaigns. This opportunity will allow him to rebuild his value on at least a coordinator level.
Matt Canada entered the 2023 season with signficant pressure, and the Steelers made an all-but unprecedented move in firing him midseason. It has been clear for some time that an outside hire would be made, and Pittsburgh spoke with a pair of external candidates (Panthers OC Thomas Brown and Texans QBs coach Jerrod Johnson) before landing on Smith.
With a running back tandem of Najee Harris (who will likely be in place through at least 2025) and Jaylen Warren, Smith will have the pieces in place to continue the run-heavy approach which yielded success late in the year for Pittsburgh. The impact he makes on the team’s offense will be a key factor in determining the Steelers’ ability to at least replicate their run to a wild-card spot in 2024.