PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers hired former Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith as offensive coordinator on Friday, hoping he can help a unit that's underachieved in recent years.
The 41-year-old Smith was fired last month following a third straight 7-10 season in Atlanta. He returns to a position that he thrived in while coaching in Tennessee earlier in his career.
Smith replaces Matt Canada, who was dismissed just before Thanksgiving with the Steelers offense languishing near the bottom of the league in points and yards. There was a slight uptick in production down the stretch with interim offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner in charge and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan calling the plays as Pittsburgh used a late push to reach the playoffs.
Still, head coach Mike Tomlin opted to go outside the organization to find someone he hopes can help quarterback Kenny Pickett take the next step following a bumpy first full year as the starter. Pickett spent the final month of the season on the sideline after undergoing ankle surgery in early December and third-stringer Mason Rudolph played solidly in Pickett's absence.
Tomlin said the Steelers remain committed to Pickett as the starter, though he hopes to provide Pickett with competition when the team reports to training camp at St. Vincent College in July. The team is open to bringing back Rudolph, who will be a free agent in March.
Smith's job whoever is behind center will be to get more out of an offense that has finished better than 21st in points just once since 2018. Pittsburgh has talented skill position players in running backs Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren and wide receivers George Pickens and Diontae Johnson. Yet that talent has struggled to regularly generate points or yards.
The Steelers never reached 400 yards in a game during Canada's two-plus year tenure, though they did top that total multiple times after Faulkner took over.
Smith directed one of the NFL's most potent offenses during his two years as offensive coordinator in Tennessee in 2019 and 2020. The Titans finished fourth in total yards in 2020, with running back Derrick Henry rushing for more than 2,000 yards and quarterback Ryan Tannehill throwing for 33 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.
That success, however, did not follow Smith to Atlanta. The Falcons finished in the bottom half of the league in yards in each of his three seasons as head coach, a tenure in which he also called the plays. He was dismissed just hours after a season-ending blowout loss to New Orleans.
Smith is the first outside offensive coordinator hire by the Steelers since they brought in Todd Haley in 2012. Haley thrived during his five seasons in Pittsburgh, including three straight finishing in the top 10 in the league in points and yards.
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