New Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and return man Gunner Olszewski said the team’s two-year offer helped draw him to Pittsburgh. But playing for special teams coordinator Danny Smith helped seal the deal. In an interview with Steelers.com’s Missi Matthews, Olszewski said he looked forward to playing under him.
“He seems like my kind of guy,” Olszewski told Matthews via the team’s YouTube channel. “He’s in there. He’s a loud guy and he likes to talk football and so do I.”
Aside from Mike Tomlin, Smith might be the most recognizable coach on the Steelers’ staff. Head out to a training camp practice this summer and he’s the loudest voice on the field, dominating the airwaves during special teams sessions. His bubble-gum chewing has also garnered plenty of attention. But he’s proven to be a quality coach that players love playing for. Arguably no special teams coach in football draws up punt block schemes the way he’s able to. Last season, the Steelers blocked a pair of them.
Their return game has also improved in recent years. Smith’s big blemishes were kick return teams who consistently ranked among the worst in football. But Ray-Ray McCloud and others helped pull that unit out of the basement. The baton has now been handed to Olszewski, replacing McCloud as the team’s starting kick and punt returner. An All-Pro in 2020, he’s hoping to get back to those numbers. Which means a trip to the end zone.
Smith has served as the Steelers’ special teams coordinator since 2013. Following Keith Butler’s retirement, the only two Steelers’ coaches who have been with the team longer are Mike Tomlin (2007) and John Mitchell (1994). Mitchell does some on-field work in the spring and summer, but has largely moved into a liaison type of role for players.
As we recently noted in our coaching staffs breakdown, the Steelers are the only team in football to officially employ just one coach carrying a special teams title. That’s Smith, who does receive help from assistants, but he juggles the units as much as any coach in football. The best thing Olszewski can do, like any player for a coach, is to make Smith look good with a strong 2022 season for the Steelers. That means taking care of the football and producing splash plays in the return game. Olszewski said he’s excited to get to work.
“I think we’re gonna get along just fine.”