Like almost all football coaches, Danny Smith loves coaching football. Being around his guys, leading the team, getting the job done, and winning on Sundays. That’s been his focus for almost all of his time with Pittsburgh. But briefly earlier this season, his focus was just on getting well.
Smith tested positive for COVID in late November and briefly spent time away from the team. He ultimately didn’t miss a game, a byproduct of the Steelers/Ravens game repeatedly postponed, but hated to be away from football even for the short time he was.
Talking to the media yesterday, Smith was asked about his COVID diagnosis.
“I appreciate it. I am healthy and doing well,” he said via a team transcript. “I had some minor symptoms and the range this thing falls in.”
He joked being away from coaching was more detrimental to his health than than the virus.
“It was very difficult. I don’t have a lot of hobbies anyway. For me to not have football about killed me. Not the virus. Not having football about killed me. It was very hard. It’s very hard to not be around these guys. I miss them when I am not around them.”
Smith echoed a similar statement before the season began, saying he was a football coach through and through.
On a broader scale, Smith described the challenges of the season. Virtual meetings, less face-to-face contact, a big change for a man whose been coaching football since 1976. Smith began his coaching career as an assistant at Edinboro University, a small college just north of Pittsburgh. A Pittsburgh native, he’s been the Steelers’ special teams coordinator since 2013.
“I miss it when we do a lot of virtual things and things like that because I want to look them in the eye. I am a hands-on kind of guy.”
Anyone who has ever attended a training camp practice can attest to the energy and passion Smith shows in-person. He’s the loudest voice on the field, booming out instructions during special teams sessions, and shows up as the same guy day after day. Smith wears his heart on his sleeve, talks about how much his players mean to him, and it’s the catalyst for guys “buying in” to the system, even stars in college now asked to do the grunt work on coverage and return teams.
Smith, 66, was at higher risk for complications of COVID because of his age. But he says he’s feeling great now.
“It was very difficult. I am healthy. Everything is good. It all turned out good for me. I have tested positive with the antibodies and everything and I am good.”
Smith will lead the special teams unit Sunday night against Cleveland. His units have done well this year despite the adversity of the season and the injuries and changes to the group. The Steelers’ kick return game has been the best its been in years, Matthew Wright has done an admirable job replacing Chris Boswell, Jordan Berry is in stellar form, and the normally good coverage units have remained solid.