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How Mike Tomlin Landed Arthur Smith as Steelers OC

The Pittsburgh Steelers could have let Arthur Smith slip right through their hands.



Pittsburgh Steelers Arthur Smith
FILE -Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith speaks during a news conference after their loss against the Carolina Panthers in an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 17, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. Smith, who was fired by Atlanta on Jan. 8, is nearing a deal to become the offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers a source told The Associated Press on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones, File)

The Pittsburgh Steelers are hiring offensive coordinator Arthur Smith to help rejuvenate a stale offense after having Matt Canada at their helm for three seasons. But that almost did not happen. Before Smith came into Pittsburgh to interview for the job, he set up another interview with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and had multiple other options. But according to Albert Breer, Mike Tomlin was not going to let that happen.

“He met with Tomlin on Monday and into Tuesday, with plans to travel to Tampa on Tuesday night and interview for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers OC job. But with Smith’s run-game ingenuity, overall offensive creativity, and work with quarterbacks, the Steelers and Tomlin saw the fit, and then worked to make sure he wouldn’t get on the plane to Florida,” Breer wrote.

According to Breer, Smith wanted to learn from an expert head coach and have stability on the job, and believed that the Steelers could offer that security to him while he learned from Tomlin and could potentially rehabilitate his image to landing another job at some point.

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

He also was unable to find a develop a quarterback to replace franchise mainstay Matt Ryan. Smith brought Marcus Mariota, who had been with him with the Tennessee Titans, to Atlanta and also used a third-round draft pick on Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder and brought in free agent Taylor Heinicke, but none proved to be an answer at quarterback.

Smith also faced criticism for his usage of 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 and 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.