FEBRUARY 8: Pittsburgh will follow through with the plan to keep Sullivan, according to KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson. With a new OC in place, the Steelers considered shifting Sullivan away from his role as quarterbacks coach. But he will stay on in that capacity for a fourth season.
FEBRUARY 1: The Steelers have hired Arthur Smith as offensive coordinator, following through with Mike Tomlin‘s plan to look outside the organization to officially replace Matt Canada. Being just the second Steelers OC hire that did not involve an in-house promotion this century, Smith may still be tied to some of Canada’s assistants.
Closing the 2023 season as Pittsburgh’s play-caller, Mike Sullivan has interviewed for the Raiders and Saints’ offensive coordinator positions. Both remain open. Generally, coordinators have autonomy to recommend candidates to join them as they implement their systems. Smith, however, will be expected to retain Sullivan.
If Sullivan fails to land one of the open OC jobs, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac notes the Steelers expect to have him remain as quarterbacks coach. Sullivan is popular with the team’s QBs, and although it would make for a slightly unusual setup in which the team’s previous play-caller remains in place as a new one takes over, it appears that is the plan for now.
Smith will have input as to how the Steelers structure their offensive staff, Dulac adds, stopping short of indicating the new OC will have freedom to greenlight hires. Sullivan and Eddie Faulkner split OC duties following Canada’s ouster, with Faulkner receiving the title and Sullivan calling plays. This setup helped Tomlin once again avoid a sub-.500 season, with Mason Rudolph piloting the team to its third playoff berth in four years.
The Steelers hired Sullivan as QBs coach in 2021. After serving as Ben Roethlisberger‘s final position coach, Sullivan has mentored Kenny Pickett. Art Rooney II confirmed (via ESPN.com’s Brooke Pryor) the Steelers still believe in the 2022 first-round pick, with the owner’s recent comments coming after Tomlin indicated the Pitt product would enter the offseason as the starter. After managing just 13 touchdown passes in 25 games to start his career, Pickett’s time as the Steelers’ unquestioned QB1 is over. The Steelers are interested in re-signing Rudolph, but it would also not surprise to see them pursue a more established veteran in free agency to compete with Pickett.
Seeing as the Steelers are interested in retaining Canada-era assistants on offense, will be interesting to see how their 2024 staff looks. Sullivan, 57, served as the Buccaneers and Giants’ OC at points during the 2010s. Pickett’s early performance level is not a ringing Sullivan endorsement, but even as Smith prepares to install his system, the Steelers value their previous play-caller as a part of this developmental process.