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Danny Smith Ecstatic about New NFL Kickoff Rules

Pittsburgh Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith is ecstatic about the new kickoff rules and is looking forward to scheming things up.

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Steelers STs Danny Smith
Steelers special teams coach Danny Smith against the Green Bay Packers, Nov.12, 2023 - Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith grinned ear to ear when talking about the new kickoff rules that the NFL is implementing in the 2024 season. And these rules will be vastly different. There is no running start until the returner catches the ball, a touchback comes out to the 30-yard line, and it will become more like a run play than another special teams drill.

But Smith thinks he can be on the cutting edge of the new play. He watched the XFL tape, from which this type of play originated, to revive the kick return. But Smith decided to go a step further and look at similar sports in Europe, such as Rugby, to get a better sense of plays he could draw up in similar circumstances.

Steelers STs coach Danny Smith

Steelers special teams coordinator Danny Smith against the Tennessee Titans, Nov. 3, 2023 – Ed Thompson / Steelers Now

“That’s the talk, you know, that’s interesting. The body type in the coverage, the body type in the return, the quickness of the play, the type of returner. Again, you know, we’re all searching for answers and we’re on a path in Pittsburgh, I can tell you that. I have studied numerous plays that I have been able to find from other Leagues that are similar,” Smith said. “There is nothing exactly like we’re doing it. But there are some similarities in some things. I’ve met with a lot of people that have done it. I’ve watched a lot of tape that have done it. I’m sure others have to. But those are the challenges. And some of it is going to be a challenge in practice that we go back in,and we say after we look at the tape, ‘Hey, that was good.’ ‘Hey, that looks good.’ ‘Hey, this doesn’t.’ ‘That is that that isn’t.”

The more important thing for the Steelers and Smith is that all 32 teams will be figuring this out. But Smith, who was part of the eight-person committee that came up with the idea and pushed it to be approved, hopes it can bring back the kick return play, which had largely been dead for years. But Smith, who is 70 years old, is looking forward to the new challenge that he will face this season.

“You know, that makes it a challenge for all the special teams’ coaches in this League, me included obviously, and it makes you work harder and I’ve never been one to run away from work. I run to it. And so, it’s been a challenge from that standpoint. We’ll see how it is on display. I’m glad we have three preseason games, you know to find out about it, but it’s exciting. We’ve come a long way with our football team and I’m, honest to God, I am really excited for it,” Smith said.

So, the Steelers and Smith have plenty at their disposal to work with, including All-Pro Miles Killebrew and one of the best kick returners to ever play in Cordarrelle Patterson, which Smith hopes can parlay into success.