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Mike Tomlin Details Why He Hired Arthur Smith as Steelers OC

Mike Tomlin hired new Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Arthur Smith with a focus on fortifying the team’s offensive identity.

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Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Coordinator Arthur Smith
Atlanta Falcons coach Arthur Smith during an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Pittsburgh Steelers hired Arthur Smith in February after their offensive coordinator search concluded. Smith was set to fly to Tampa Bay to interview for their open job, but Mike Tomlin locked Smith up, securing that he would become the next offensive coordinator for the team.

But why did that come to fruition? Tomlin explained what he saw in Smith that made him so favorable to what Pittsburgh has at quarterback and with their offensive personnel.

“First and foremost, man, I’ve competed against him over the years,” Tomlin said of Smith. “We’ve had some battles against Tennessee and then obviously we played him when he was in Atlanta. I respect his approach, the ball, his values are very evident in looking at his tape and they are aligned with things that we value controlling the game through our bigs and building from there and then I also got close relationships with some people who were really significant in his development and helped him establish some things that he strongly believes in, guys that I’ve had an opportunity to work with like much for example, and so it was really a great deal of comfort and beyond comfort. It was a great deal of excitement in terms of bringing him on board.”

Smith was fired by the Falcons after three unsuccessful seasons as their head coach. In three years running the show in Atlanta, Smith went 7-10 each season, finishing no better than third in the NFC South.

He also could not find a quarterback to replace franchise mainstay Matt Ryan. Smith brought Marcus Mariota, who had been with him with the Tennessee Titans, to Atlanta. He also used a third-round draft pick on Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder and brought in free agent Taylor Heinicke. Still, none proved to be an answer at quarterback.

Smith also faced criticism for using the Falcons’ skill position players, with former first-round picks Drake London, Kyle Pitts, and Bijan Robinson failing to reach their full potential.

Though things did not go well in Atlanta with Smith as the head coach, he had a strong stint as an offensive coordinator with the Titans. Smith started in Nashville as a quality control coach in 2011 and worked his way up to offensive line and tight ends coach before taking over as offensive coordinator in 2019.

The Titans finished 10th in scoring and third in rushing in his first season, leaning on a strong offensive line and the talents of running back Derrick Henry. That provided the blueprint for the franchise, as they finished fourth in scoring in 2020, all the while having a below-average passing attack.

Alan Saunders contributed to reporting from Orlando.