As the Pittsburgh Steelers progress through their offseason following their playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills on Monday, the first box to check was the status of head coach Mike Tomlin. That seems secure, as Tomlin said on Thursday that he will return for the 2024 season and president Art Rooney II expects to finalize a contract extension with Tomlin this offseason. The next thing on the team’s offseason to-do list is to find a new offensive coordinator.
The Steelers fired offensive coordinator Matt Canada on Nov. 21, the first time the team had fired a coordinator mid-season since the 1940s. That left quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan and running backs coach Eddie Faulkner to step up and handle the play-calling duties for the offense the rest of the season, and things went a lot better with Faulkner and Sullivan running the show than they had with Canada. Each of the team’s two best offensive performances of the season came after Canada’s firing. The team averaged over three points per game better after Canada’s firing.
While it was assumed that both Faulkner and Sullivan would get an interview to become the full-time coordinator in the offseason, Tomlin’s end-of-the-season press conference stated that, at least for now, the team will look outside of the organization for its next offensive coordinator.
“I’m looking at outside candidates and lining up the pecking order there,” Tomlin said. “I am appreciative of their efforts in terms of what they did for us down the stretch. But I’m looking at outside candidates at this juncture.”
Tomlin also said on Thursday that he would prefer an offensive coordinator with NFL experience this time around, after having two straight first-timers in Randy Fichtner and Matt Canada.
So who will the Steelers look to for their next OC? We’ve put together our big board of potential candidates that fit Tomlin’s criteria, have ties to Pittsburgh, Tomlin, or the Steelers (each of the last three OC hires fit that mold), and others that may be considered.
INTERVIEWED / CONFIRMED INTEREST
Arthur Smith, Former Atlanta Falcons Head Coach
Smith just was fired by the Falcons after three unsuccessful seasons as their head coach. The Falcons hired Smith after his only stint as an offensive coordinator. In that stint, Smith led the Tennessee Titans to their highest-scoring season ever on the offensive side of the ball while guiding players such as Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill to career years. Smith’s last victory as the Titans’ offensive coordinator came against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Round where the Titans ran the ball to a 28-12 victory and their last AFC Championship birth.
Thomas Brown, Carolina Panthers Offensive Coordinator
Brown worked his way up through the coaching landscape and landed his first coordinator job this past offseason with the Carolina Panthers. While the Panthers and their offense struggled, Brown comes from the highly sought-after Sean McVay coaching tree. Before his stint in Carolina, Brown served as the Rams’ assistant head coach for two seasons including the season when they defeated the Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. The Steelers completed an interview with Brown for the vacancy on Jan. 24, 2024, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Brown’s interview marked the first conducted by the Steelers for the job opening.
Jerrod Johnson, Houston Texans Quarterbacks Coach, Former Steelers Quarterback
Johnson is a comparable candidate to Zac Robinson who is someone that has not previously worked as an offensive coordinator in the league. The reason that Johnson may be attractive for the Steelers is due to CJ Stroud’s instant success. Johnson, alongside Bobby Slowik, helped transform the Texans’ offensive unit into a diverse attack closely resembling McVay’s offense in Los Angeles. While Johnson has much closer ties to the Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator vacancy due to his time with Kevin O’Connell, Johnson fits the mold of coming from the McVay or Shanahan coaching tree that the Steelers seem interested in. The Steelers are set to interview Johnson on Friday, Jan. 26, according to a report by Tom Pelissero of NFL.com.
Kliff Kingsbury, USC Offensive Analyst, Quarterbacks Coach, Former Arizona Cardinals Head Coach
Kingsbury, a former NFL head coach, is currently in the college ranks and serves as USC’s quarterbacks coach and senior offensive analyst. While he is coaching under Lincoln Riley, Kingsbury has shown interest in rejoining the NFL landscape and has reportedly landed an offensive coordinator interview with the Chicago Bears. Kingsbury served as the Cardinals’ head coach for four seasons but does not have NFL coordinator experience as he last served in that role at Texas A&M in 2012. According to a report by Peter King, the Steelers were mentioned as a team that is planning to meet with Kingsbury for their offensive coordinator vacancy. Dulac later reported that Kingsbury is not in consideration for the position.
TIER I CANDIDATES (Prior OC Experience)
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.
Klint Kubiak, San Francisco 49ers Passing Game Coordinator
Kubiak comes from a football-rich family as he is the son of Super Bowl 50-winning head coach Gary Kubiak. Currently serving as the 49ers passing game coordinator, Kubiak has offensive playcalling experience as he served that role for the Minnesota Vikings in 2021. During his lone season as an offensive coordinator, Kubiak guided the Vikings to the 12th-ranked offense in regards to total yardage and the 14th-ranked unit in terms of points scored.
Darrell Bevell, Miami Dolphins Passing Game Coordinator, Quarterbacks Coach
Bevell was the offensive coordinator counterpart to Tomlin when he was the defensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings in 2006. Bevell has had four stints as an NFL OC, with the Vikings from 2006-10, the Seattle Seahawks from 2011-17, the Detroit Lions from 2019-20 and the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021. He was also the interim head coach in Detroit and Jacksonville, as Bevell has had the bad luck of having two head coaches fired out from above him as OC. The trip around the league has made Bevell extremely adaptable in terms of scheme fit, and he’s currently working in one of the most innovating ones, serving as passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Miami Dolphins under Mike McDaniel. In addition to Tua Tagovailoa, Bevell has been the coordinator or quarterbacks coach for Trevor Lawrence, Matt Stafford, Russel Wilson, and Brett Favre.
Eric Bieniemy, Washington Commanders Offensive Coordinator, Assistant Head Coach
Bieniemy made a name for himself during his tenure as Kansas City’s offensive coordinator (2018-2022). Under the leadership of Bieniemy, Patrick Mahomes rose to stardom while winning two MVP awards and two Super Bowls. Before this season, Bieniemy signed with Washington to become the offensive coordinator and assistant to head coach Ron Rivera. The Commanders’ offense has shown flashes of explosiveness this season but a disappointing second half cost Rivera his job, leaving Bieniemy’s status up in the air as Washington is still searching for a head coach.
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, Hamilton interviewed for the offensive coordinator vacancy which gives him the link to the job this offseason.
Greg Roman, Former Baltimore Ravens Offensive Coordinator
Roman, the man who helped guide Lamar Jackson to the MVP award in 2019, stepped down from his duty as the Ravens’ offensive coordinator following the 2022 season. Roman earned his first NFL coaching role in 1995 and operated as the offensive coordinator for three different franchises in his career (SF 2011-2014, BUF 2015-2016, BAL 2019-2022). After being promoted to offensive coordinator midseason, Roman introduced a run-heavy attack that helped the team lead the NFL in scoring (33.8 PPG) over the final 12 games of the season.
Alex Van Pelt, Former Cleveland Browns Offensive Coordinator, Steelers Quarterback
Van Pelt, a Pittsburgh native and former Pitt quarterback, was an eighth-round draft pick of the Steelers in 1993. He just finished his fourth season as the Browns offensive coordinator but was fired after the team’s Wild Card loss to the Houston Texans. In addition, Van Pelt coached the Browns’ quarterbacks, which may attract the Steelers because of Kenny Pickett’s lack of development. His best season as a play-caller came in 2023 when he guided the Browns to the 10th-ranked scoring offense and the 16th-ranked offense in total yards.
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.
Mike LaFleur, Los Angeles Rams Offensive Coordinator
LaFleur is another coach who comes from the famous Shanahan coaching tree. After branching off on his own, LaFleur earned his first NFL offensive coordinator job with the New York Jets which was a role he held for two seasons. After a fast start by rookie Zach Wilson, the Jets offense and team struggled down the stretch and lost their last six games. After another bad season, LaFleur and the Jets parted ways last offseason. Afterward, LaFleur joined the Rams as their offensive coordinator and guided them to a postseason birth.
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.
Anthony Lynn, San Francisco 49ers Assistant Head Coach, Running Backs Coach
Another former NFL head coach, Lynn has bounced around since he was relieved of his duties as the Los Angeles Chargers head coach after the 2020 season. He spent 2021 as the offensive coordinator for Dan Campbell with the Detroit Lions and the last two years running the league-leading ground game of the San Francisco 49ers.
Liam Coen, Kentucky Offensive Coordinator
Another branch of the Sean McVay tree, Coen came up as assistant wide receivers and quarterbacks coach with the Rams from 2019-20, then bounced to Kentucky as offensive coordinator in 2021 before going back to L.A. as the Rams OC in 2022. It wasn’t a great year for the Rams in 2022, and Coen decided to return to the college ranks at Kentucky this past offseason. Coen has some NFL play-calling experience, but not much, and may prefer to work in the college ranks at this point.
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). While he is one of the more experienced candidates available, Olson may not bring the high-scoring, flashy offense that the Steelers are looking for in their next offensive play-caller.
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. While Brady does not have the most offensive coordinator experience, he has learned under an offensive guru in Philadelphia for a few years now.
TIER II CANDIDATES (Without Prior OC Experience)
Brian Griese, San Francisco 49ers Quarterbacks Coach
Griese is still a newcomer to the coaching world as the 2023 season marks his second year as not only an NFL coach but a football coach overall. After his playing days wrapped up in 2008, Griese headed off to the broadcast booth where he would stay until Kyle Shanahan called in 2022. Since his hiring, the 49ers have been surprised by the emergence of second-year quarterback Brock Purdy who has played at an MVP level in 2023.
Scottie Montgomery, Detroit Lions Running Backs Coach, Former Steelers WR Coach
Montgomery is currently employed as the Detroit Lions running backs coach but was a part of the Steelers coaching staff from 2010 to 2012 as a wide receivers coach. During his time in Pittsburgh, Montgomery coached Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown to Pro Bowl honors in 2011 before heading back to the college world to further his experience. Most notably, Montgomery made a stop in East Carolina to be their head coach for three seasons.
Tee Martin, Baltimore Ravens Quarterbacks Coach, Former Steelers Quarterback
Martin, a fifth-round selection of the Steelers in the 2000 NFL Draft, currently is in his first season as the Ravens’ quarterbacks coach after being the wide receivers coach from 2021 to 2022. This season, Martin has helped Lamar Jackson rebound back to an MVP level after throwing for a career-high 3,678 yards in 16 games. While Mike Tomlin was not the head coach during Martin’s stint in Pittsburgh, Martin has made a name for himself in the coaching world.
Kevin Patullo, Philadelphia Eagles Passing Game Coordinator, Associate Head Coach
Patullo is another guy that assistant general manager, Andy Weidl, is familiar with due to his time in Philadelphia. Patullo was hired under Nick Sirianni in 2021 and has worked his way up to being the passing game coordinator and the associate head coach after the Eagles offense took a huge leap last season. Although the Eagles’ late-season struggles may hinder Patullo’s chances of gaining job interviews, the 42-year-old’s name is starting to gain some buzz.
Shea Tierney, New York Giants Quarterbacks Coach
Tierney just wrapped up his second season as the Giants’ quarterbacks coach but is familiar with Andy Weidl due to his experience as a coaching intern, a role he held with the Eagles from 2013 to 2015. While this season did not go as expected for the Giants, Tierney helped Daniel Jones to the best season of his career in 2022 with Jones setting the Giants’ single-season completion percentage record (67.2) and leading them to a Wild Card victory.
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.
CANDIDATES RULED OUT
Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterbacks Coach
Sullivan was assumed to be guaranteed an interview for the Steelers offensive coordinator job but that changed during Tomlin’s end-of-the-year press conference when he stated that he wanted to bring somebody in from outside of the organization.
Eddie Faulkner, Pittsburgh Steelers Running Backs Coach
Like Sullivan, Faulkner was expected to land an interview for the Steelers’ vacant offensive coordinator job after being the interim offensive coordinator after Matt Canada’s departure but that was ruled out during Tomlin’s press conference.
Shane Waldron, Seattle Seahawks Offensive Coordinator
Waldron was one of the few candidates who checked all of the boxes that Tomlin listed that he wanted from his next offensive coordinator. Whether the Steelers were interested in Waldron or not, we may never know because he reportedly accepted the Chicago Bears offensive coordinator job on Jan. 22, 2024, according to a report by Tom Pelissaro of NFL Network.
Duce Staley, Former Carolina Panthers Running Backs Coach, Former Steelers Running Back
Staley, a former Steelers running back, coached his first 11 NFL seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, under the guidance of Steelers’ current assistant general manager Andy Weidl. Working his way up to running backs coach and assistant head coach, Staley headed off to Detroit to man the same position in 2021. This past season, Staley was hired to the same role under Frank Reich in Carolina before he was fired in November along with Reich. According to a report by CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson, Staley accepted a coaching role within the Cleveland Browns organization on Jan. 24, 2024.
Zac Robinson, Los Angeles Rams Passing Game Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach
Robinson is the next man up from the McVay coaching tree. He spent three years as assistant quarterbacks and wide receivers coach before taking the quarterbacks coach and pass-game coordinator job in 2022. He oversaw the club’s vastly improved offense in 2023 while helping to get the most out of exciting young stars like Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell. Robinson is only 37, which would make him by far the youngest coordinator Tomlin has ever hired. The Steelers requested an interview with Robinson on Jan. 22, 2024, according to a report by Albert Breer. The Atlanta Falcons hired Robinson on Jan. 27, according to a report by NFL Network. Robinson will follow fellow former Rams assistant Raheem Morris to Atlanta.
Kellen Moore, Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Coordinator
Moore started his coordinator career in Dallas where he helped build Dak Prescott into the quarterback he is today. After the Cowboys’ playoff exit in 2022, both parties agreed to part ways. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley quickly pounced on Moore and hired him as the offensive coordinator to pair with superstar quarterback Justin Herbert. Those expectations went unfilled and Staley was fired midseason but Moore stayed. The Chargers’ new head coach may opt for his hand-picked staff which may leave Moore searching for a job. According to a report by WIP on Jan. 27, Moore has been hired by the Philadelphia Eagles.
Ken Dorsey, Former Buffalo Bills Offensive Coordinator
Starting as the Bills quarterbacks coach in 2019, Dorsey replaced Brian Daboll as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2022. The Bills went on to rank second in points scored and total yardage in Dorsey’s first season as the offensive play-caller. His second season in the role did not go as smoothly as the team started with a 5-5 record including a stretch where the team lost four of six games, mainly because of the lack of offense. As a result, Dorsey was fired by the Bills in November and replaced by Joe Brady which ultimately reignited the Bills offense. Dorsey was hired by the Cleveland Browns on Jan. 28.