Steelers fans had a right to question the decision for Pittsburgh to hire Arthur Smith as their next offensive coordinator. As the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons over the past three years, Smith's offense wasn't inspiring as they were actually less successful on a per-play basis when running the ball than the Steelers were and they scored just 19.6 points per game during this span.
Mike Tomlin hasn't exactly given us a lot of reason to be confident in this decision. Art Rooney II made it abundantly clear that the Steelers' head coach was responsible for any coaching hires, and when it comes to picking his staff, we can't exactly give him a glowing endorsement after spending the past six years with either Randy Fichtner or Matt Canada running the offense.
Like it or not, Arthur Smith is the new OC in Pittsburgh, as he signed a three-year deal with the team. But Smith's offenses have looked very different than what Steelers fans are used to seeing.
Smith likes to run the football a lot -- just like Pittsburgh does -- but his offense revolves around the wide zone blocking scheme. Smith likes to get a defense flowing all in one direction so that he can occasionally have the quarterback pull the ball out on a bootleg and find wide-open receivers down the field.
This didn't work very effectively over the past two seasons with less-than-stellar QB play in Atlanta, but he did aid Ryan Tannehill to the two best seasons of his career when he was the OC of the Titans in 2019 and 2020. Now the question becomes: which quarterback is going to run Smith's offense?
Interestingly, neither Kenny Pickett nor Mason Rudolph have much experience with a play-action offense or operating under center. Quite frankly, it's hard to risk putting another Steelers season in the hands of two guys who have been less than spectacular in their careers (not to mention they would have to learn a whole new offense).
For this reason, it seems likely that the Steelers will pursue outside help at the quarterback position, and the decision to hire Arthur Smith could lead Pittsburgh to trade for a polarizing NFL quarterback.
Steelers could trade for Justin Fields
Dating back to last season, there were whispers that Justin Fields could be traded. Now that the Chicago Bears officially hold the number one pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, this seems almost certain to happen.
Instead of Chicago putting all of their eggs in the Justin Fields basket (who has been up and down early in his career). They could recoup draft capital from their former first-round quarterback while effortlessly moving on to superstar prospect, Caleb Williams. It's been rumored that a trade for Fields will not cost a first-round pick and that a deal could get done with potentially as little as a second-round pick and future third-round pick.
Though Fields will need a new contract if he proves himself in 2024, there should be plenty of teams chomping at the bit to land the ultra-talented quarterback, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of them.
Here's where things get interesting. While Fields didn't play in the exact same style of offense that Arthur Smith runs, the Bears were 4th in the NFL in rush rate last year while finishing 5th in time of possession. This was largely thanks to the ability of Fields to keep the chains moving and chew up the clock by using his legs.
It's pretty easy to see how Fields could fit in this new style of Steelers offense by Arthur Smith. Pittsburgh will plan to run the football in the wide zone. By doing so, they could have the threat of Fields keeping the ball on play-action bootlegs and either finding an open receiver down the field or taking off with the football and running for big gains on the ground.
Compared to Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph, Fields is not only a far superior athlete, but he's got a much bigger arm to rifle the ball down the field when the Steelers do decide to throw it. This style of offense could cater to Fields' skill set perfectly and give him the flexibility to take off and run with the ball instead of putting it in harm's way (which is something Mike Tomlin does not like to do).
It's also worth noting that the Falcons were one of the teams rumored to be interested in trading for Fields while Arthur Smith was the head coach in Atlanta. If Smith sees him as a significant upgrade over what they have (and he no doubt would be), the Pittsburgh Steelers could be the first team on the phone if and when the Bears officially make Justin Fields available via trade.
The Steelers are in this deep and are committed to changing their offense with Arthur Smith calling the shots. Don't be shocked if they take it one step further and go all in by trading for a polarizing quarterback in 2024.