The Pittsburgh Steelers have had one of the smallest coaching staffs in the NFL for quite some time, and both head coach Mike Tomlin and president Art Rooney II said this offseason that they were open to expanding the size of the coaching staff.
With the hiring of Arthur Smith, a run-first former offensive line and tight ends coach as the team’s offensive coordinator, the idea of adding a coach as a passing game coordinator could have some merit.
Several NFL teams have added an additional senior coach to their coaching staffs, positioned between traditional coordinators and position coach, with titles such as assistant head coach, pass- or run-game coordinator or senior assistant.
The Steelers did that on the defensive side of the ball for the last three seasons, when Teryl Austin was senior defensive assistant from 2020-21 and Brian Flores held the role in 2022. It went un-filled in 2023.
So if the Steelers decide to utilize a pass-game coordinator or similar position on the offensive side of the ball under Smith in 2024, who are the potential options? Let’s break them down.
Many of these gentlemen will be the same people that were in consideration for the Steelers’ offensive coordinator position the first time around, and while much of that cadre has found work elsewhere, there are still several potential candidates.
Byron Leftwich, Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator, Steelers Quarterback
Leftwich, a former 10-year NFL veteran quarterback, spent four seasons as the backup to Ben Roethlisberger with the Steelers (2008, 2010-2012). After his playing days concluded, Leftwich joined his former offensive coordinator, Bruce Arians, in Arizona as a coach and later followed him to Tampa Bay to become the team’s offensive coordinator. In his time with the Bucs, Leftwich helped guide the team to a victory in Super Bowl LV but was fired by the team last offseason. He did not get another NFL job for 2023.
Pep Hamilton, Former Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts Offensive Coordinator
Hamilton last worked as the Texans offensive coordinator in 2022 and before his stint in Houston, Hamilton helped Justin Herbert win the 2020 Rookie of the Year award as the Chargers quarterbacks coach. In addition, from 2013 to 2015, Hamilton served as the Colts offensive coordinator and was a vital reason that Andrew Luck threw for a league-high 40 passing touchdowns in 2014. Before Pittsburgh hired Matt Canada in 2021, Hamilton interviewed for the offensive coordinator vacancy which gives him the link to the team this offseason.
Frank Reich, Former Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers Head Coach
Reich’s last two jobs in the NFL came as a head coach for the Colts and then the Panthers. While both can be summed up as failures, Reich was a solid offensive coordinator before those jobs. From 2014 to 2015, Reich managed the Chargers offense and then ran the Eagles offense from 2016 to 2017. In 2017, Reich helped the Eagles score the third most points and total the seventh most yards in the league before helping them win the Super Bowl later that season. The question with Reich is not whether or not he’d be good for the job, but whether he’d take a role two steps below his most recent NFL station.
Josh McDaniels, Former Las Vegas Raiders Head Coach
McDaniels was fired by the Raiders after a year and a half as the organization’s head coach. His time with the black-and-silver was described as a disaster due to many late-game collapses and the inability to maintain the locker room. Before his Raiders tenure, McDaniels won six Super Bowls as a part of the New England Patriots coaching staff including many of those as the team’s offensive coordinator. McDaniels was rumored to be interested in returning to be the Patriots’ OC this offseason under new head coach Jerod Mayo, but Alex Van Pelt was hired instead, leaving McDaniels seemingly without a gig for 2024.
Brian Johnson, former Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Coordinator
Johnson got some OC interest after he was let go following one season as the Eagles offensive coordinator, but none of it panned out. The 36-year-old was Eagles quarterbacks coach before he was OC and has a relationship with Andy Weld from the 2021 team there. The question is whether Jalen Hurts has kely at least wait to see what happens there before looking elsewhere. He could also possibly return to Philly under new OC Kellen Moore.
Mick Lombardi, Former Las Vegas Raiders Offensive Coordinator
Lombardi, the son of former NFL GM Michael Lombardi, didn’t necessarily impress in a one-and-a-half year stint as the Raiders OC, but he has worked in some interesting places. He came up in the NFL under Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco and also spent three years under Bill Belichick. Those aren’t bad relationships to leverage in a job interview.
Luke Getsy, Former Chicago Bears Offensive Coordinator
A Munhall native and former Pitt quarterback, Getsy got his pro start with the Green Bay Packers, working under Mike McCarthy. Though he was let go in the changeover to Matt LaFleur, Aaron Rodgers liked working with him, so he returned after one year a Mississippi State. He parlayed success with Rodgers into a stint as Chicago’s OC that didn’t necessarily go very well.
Dave Ragone, Former Atlanta Falcons Offensive Coordinator
Ragone just spent the last three years as Arthur Smith’s offensive coordinator in Atlanta, so there is a solid level of familiarity there. A former Louisville and NFL quarterback, Ragone has been a quarterbacks coach at many stops in the past, with the Titans under Smith in 2013 and with the Chicago Bears from 2016-19 before one year as the Bears’ passing-game coordinator.
developed enough to give Johnson some QB development credit.
Marcus Brady, Philadelphia Eagles Senior Offensive Assistant
Brady has made one appearance as an offensive coordinator in the NFL after he replaced Nick Sirianni as the Indianapolis Colts play-caller in 2021. Brady served in that role for just over a season but was fired mid-season. Later that month, Brady was hired by Sirianni to be an offensive consultant for the Eagles. In the offseason, Brady accepted an offer to stay with the Eagles as a senior offensive assistant. Brady has interviewed for the Los Angeles Chargers vacancy that seems likely to go to Greg Roman, but he will li
Greg Olson, Seattle Seahawks Quarterbacks Coach
Olson last served as an offensive coordinator in 2021 with the Raiders but has stints as offensive coordinator for multiple NFL franchises which include the Lions (2004-2005), Rams (2006-2007), Buccaneers (2009-2011), and Jaguars (2015-2016). Olson is technically still under contract, but with Seattle still looking for a new offensive coordinator under new head coach Mike Macdonald, Olson could be on the way out if the new OC wants his own guy as quarterbacks coach.
Charles London, Tennessee Titans Pass-Game Coordinator
London is currently serving in this role in Tennessee, but it’s unknown if the new regime will want to retain him. He got to the Titans in 2023 and did well with Will Levis. Before that, he worked with Smith in Atlanta for two years as pass-game coordinator
Bo Hardegree, Former Las Vegas Raiders Quarterbacks Coach
Hardegree did a nice job down the stretch as an interim offensive coordinator working with Aidan O’Connell for the Raiders, but was shown the door after the season. He has experience as a quarterbacks coach in the past, with the Miami Dolphins from 2016-18.
Mark Whipple, Former Steelers Quarterbacks Coach, Former Pitt Offensive Coordinator
Whipple, the former Steelers quarterbacks coach, last coached as Nebraska’s offensive coordinator in 2022. Before, Whipple helped make Kenny Pickett into a pro during their time at Pitt together. If Pickett is still the future, a pairing with Whipple may help his development. During Pickett’s final season at Pitt, Whipple helped the Heisman candidate set school records including most passing yards (4,319) and passing touchdowns (42) in a single season.
Dana Holgorsen, Former West Virginia and Houston Head Coach
Holgorsen was let go after a four-year stint in Houston. While it seems unlikely that his Air Raid scheme would make much sense in the NFL, there’s little question that he has a knack for developing quarterbacks.