Arthur Smith is a good coach, but he's not the OC hire the Steelers needed

The Steelers are making Arthur Smith their new OC, but this isn't the direction Pittsburgh should have gone.

Steelers, Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers, Pittsburgh Steelers / Edward M. Pio Roda/GettyImages

After anxiously awaiting an answer to the vacant offensive coordinator position in Pittsburgh, the Steelers have finally come to a decision... and it's being met with plenty of controversy. Just one day after Art Rooney II explained to the media that the OC decision is completely up to Mike Tomlin, the Steelers hired Arthur Smith to be their new offensive coordinator, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports.

Smith was a well-known name that was thrown into the coaching pool after being relieved of his duties early in 2024. Most recently, Smith had a three-year stint as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Prior to that, he was the offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans in 2019 and 2020.

Smith has some strong coaching connections, and his five years of experience as an offensive play-caller no doubt made this an attractive choice by Mike Tomlin. But based on his most recent sample size in the NFL, Steelers fans have the right to wonder if Tomlin and the team made the right decision with this important coaching hire.

Arthur Smith has a niche, but it won't help the Steelers' passing game

If there's one thing we know about an Arthur Smith-run offense, it's that the running game has always been excellent. Dating back to his time spent with the Titans, Smith helped lead Derrick Henry in back-to-back rushing titles -- one of which included a 2,000-yard, 17-touchdown season for the All-Pro running back in 2020.

During his time as the head coach of the Falcons, Smith helped Tyler Allgeier explode for an impressive rookie season while revitalizing the career of former WR Cordarrelle Patterson and using him as an effective running back. Last year, Smith added first-round running back Bijan Robinson to the mix and he exploded for over 1,400 all-purpose yards.

But the problem with Arthur Smith is that his best trait -- producing one of the league's best-rushing attacks -- is an area where the Steelers have already proven themselves last year. Where Pittsburgh struggles is in the passing game.

If history repeats itself, this is an area that Arthur Smith won't do much to assist in. Over the past five years calling plays for both the Titans and Falcons, Smith has never had a passing offense that has averaged even 225 yards per game, per Team Rankings.

Running the ball effectively and not putting the ball in harm's way are two things that Mike Tomlin has been adamant about doing on offense. Smith can offer this to the Steelers... but at a cost.

With so much focus going into the wide-zone rushing attack, the passing game is mostly an afterthought for Arthur Smith. I will credit Smith for aiding QB Ryan Tannehill to the most efficient seasons of his NFL career back in 2019 and 2020, but the Titans didn't throw the ball much, and when they went toe-to-toe with great teams in the playoffs, they couldn't compete in a shootout.

What's most concerning is that the past three years have been a nightmare when it comes to Arthur Smith's passing game. While fans would argue that he didn't have a respectable quarterback during his time as a head coach with the Falcons, it's hard to argue that he will be getting one in Pittsburgh (barring an unforeseen splash move for a proven QB this offseason).

In terms of points per game, the Falcons have only been slightly better than the Steelers were under Matt Canada during the same three-year stretch.

During his tenure as an NFL head coach, Smith's offenses have averaged just 19.6 points per game. you could argue that he had a similar situation going for him with young, quality skill players, a good running game, and a shaky QB situation. In comparison, Matt Canada and the Steelers averaged 18.7 points per game over the past three seasons.

At the end of the day, it's hard to get too excited about hiring Arthur Smith as the new offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Smith is a good coach, but the best thing he offers is something that this team already has, and history shows that he hasn't had a lot of success when it comes to the passing game.

Let's pray that Mike Tomlin made the right choice with his OC decision. If not, it could be the last one he makes.